UPDATED: ND Oil Production Up 4 Percent In January

WILLISTON, N.D. — North Dakota oil production rebounded in January with a 4 percent increase, bringing daily production to an average of 980,294 barrels, the Department of Mineral Resources said Wednesday, March 8.

The increase of nearly 38,000 barrels per day in January followed a 9 percent slide in December caused by extreme winter weather.

Officials released the oil production figures early this month so legislators will have the latest information when they review a new revenue forecast that will be released Thursday morning.

The state’s revenue projections for 2017-19 assume that oil production will be 925,000 barrels per day for the fiscal year starting on July 1 and increase to 950,000 barrels per day for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018, said Budget Director Pam Sharp.

“We know it’s higher than that right now, but everyone felt comfortable staying on the conservative side,” Sharp said.

The projections also assume an oil price between $53 and $55 a barrel for the biennium, using West Texas Intermediate prices, Sharp said.

Over the next few months, oil production is expected to stay steady or see slight decreases as winter weather and seasonal road restrictions affect oil activity, said Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms.

Activity is projected to pick up in May and June, with hydraulic fracturing crews expected to complete more wells this year, Helms said.

North Dakota had an estimated 802 wells that were drilled but waiting on fracking crews at the end of January, an inventory that is expected to lead to production increases in the second half of 2017.

Companies have recently added to the number of rigs drilling in North Dakota and are expected to continue making incremental increases, Helms said. Forty-four drilling rigs were operating in the state on Wednesday, compared with 33 a year ago at this time and 114 two years ago, according to the Department of Mineral Resources.

Helms projects North Dakota oil production could return to 1 million barrels a day by the end of 2018. The all-time high was more than 1.2 million barrels a day produced in December 2014.

“Industry really has turned the corner and is very optimistic moving forward,” Helms said.

Natural gas production increased 1.2 percent in January to nearly 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, according to the preliminary figures.

Natural gas flaring decreased from 14 percent in December to 12 percent in January.

Oil transportation figures were not yet available for January.

Crews work at an oil well site in Williston, N.D., on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service