State oil production drops in December
WILLISTON — Extreme winter weather in December prompted North Dakota oil production to decline 5.5 percent to 923,227 barrels per day, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Department of Mineral Resources.
It was the first month in about a year that North Dakota did not set an oil production record.
Natural gas production fell nearly 9 percent to 991,330 million cubic feet per day, according to the preliminary figures.
Natural gas flaring increased from 30 percent to 36 percent, largely because the Hess Corp. Tioga Gas Plant was down during December as it transitions to a new plant, said Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms.
The expanded plant was expected by be operational in January, but delays have pushed that back until the end of this month, Helms said.
The percent of flaring ties the historical high set in September 2011. However, the flaring percentage is expected to drop significantly after the plant is online.
Helms said he still expects that North Dakota will hit the 1 million barrel per day milestone in the first quarter of this year.
December’s weather included four major snowstorms, five storms that included extreme winds and temperatures as low as 31 below zero.
The weather contributed to a backlog of wells waiting on hydraulic fracturing crews, which was estimated to be 635 wells at the end of December, an increase of about 125.
“Cold weather really impacts hydraulic fracturing,” Helms said.
The number of oil wells producing in the state decreased from a record 10,042 in November to 10,015 in December as weather prompted some wells to be temporarily shut in.
The weather also slowed the number of wells that were connected to gas gathering lines in December, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.
Seventy-three percent of North Dakota oil was transported by rail in December, up 2 percent since November, Kringstad said.