North Dakota oil production up 3 percent

WILLISTON, N.D. – North Dakota produced 973,045 barrels of oil per day in November, a nearly 3 percent increase and another all-time high, according to preliminary figures released Tuesday by the Department of Mineral Resources.

Warm November weather contributed to that surge in production, but cold temperatures slowed hydraulic fracturing activity in December and early this month, Director Lynn Helms said.

In November, 71 percent of the state’s oil production was transported by rail, up from 69 percent in October, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

The total amount of oil transported by rail in North Dakota, including some Montana Bakken production, grew to 780,000 barrels per day in November, Kringstad said.

Market prices are driving more oil to rail, while 22 percent was transported by pipeline in November, Kringstad said.

Continued growth in rail transportation is important to keep up with production, Helms said.

Any impact from the Dec. 30 derailment near Casselton won’t be available until January figures are released, Kringstad said.

Helms said he believes it is technologically possible to design or retrofit rail cars to safely transport Bakken crude.

“We move about 750,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude in semis every day and we don’t have explosions and fireballs and things like that,” Helms said, referring to oil that is trucked within the state to pipeline and rail facilities. “It’s safely moved in enormous amounts every single day in North Dakota. I don’t believe that it’s impossible to come up with the technology that’s possible to do so by rail.”

North Dakota natural gas production also hit another all-time high in November with an average of nearly 1.09 billion cubic feet per day.

The percentage of natural gas flared grew 2 percent to 30 percent in November, which Helms attributes to the temporary shutdown of the Hess Corp. gas processing plant at Tioga.

An expansion at the gas plant should significantly reduce flaring, but the transition to the new facility will cause a temporary increase, he said.

“We’re going to see some pretty tough flaring numbers in December and January,” Helms said.

North Dakota now has 10,023 producing oil wells, passing the 10,000 mark for the first time. About two-thirds of the wells are in the Bakken and Three Forks formations, but they account for 93 percent of the state’s oil production.

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