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A year of oil records

An oil well contributes to the record-setting industry Friday south of Dickinson. Officials said the state has continued to set records almost every month since January of 2010.

The North Dakota oil industry has exploded, breaking record production almost every month for nearly two years, officials said Friday.

"We just continue to see record wells being set and record rigs, record barrels being produced," said Alison Ritter, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman. "The numbers show we continue to set records every month.

North Dakota has been setting records in oil production since January 2010 due to an oil boom in the western part of the state, according to presentations from Lynn Helms, the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director.

As of October, the state was producing more than 488,000 barrels per day oil and more than 506,000 MCF, or thousand cubic feet, gas.

Producing wells also passed records almost every month. January and February were the only months not to break records. As of October, North Dakota had 6,202 producing wells.

The Oil and Gas Division started to see rig count records break in October 2010 when the count hit 156. Since then, January, June and September were the only months that didn't break the previous month's records. The record stands from Nov. 19 at 204. There were no available reports for December.

Ritter said people are watching rig counts to see when the state hits 225. She added 225 rigs is the number North Dakota needs to sustain production for the next 14 to 20 years.

North Dakota is ranked fourth in the country for oil production. Texas produces the most oil, followed by Alaska and California, respectfully. Ritter said depending on Alaska and California's decline, North Dakota should overtake the two states next year.

"We are going up and they are going down," she said. "It's just a matter when and where we will meet in the middle."

Helms wrote in his Dec. 12 presentation that more than 95 percent of drilling is targeted in the Bakken and Three Forks formations. Ritter said she couldn't see anything slowing production down, though she also couldn't make concrete speculations.

Concerns from the Environmental Protection Agency have threatened to limit hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" in western North Dakota. Ritter said it has caused a stir, but she couldn't predict how it would affect the future of the oil industry.

"We just have to wait and see what happens with their guidance," she said.

Ritter wrote in an email that production is expect to grow by 8,000 to 20,000 barrels per day each month, adding the state could hit 500,000 barrels per day by the end of this year. North Dakota could potentially produce almost 600,000 barrels per day by the end of 2012, and the state could continue to see records.

While Ritter said the Oil and Gas Division couldn't predict what the future would bring, the development of the Bakken has just begun, said Vicky Steiner, North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties executive director.

"We are going to see additional growth in 2012," she said. "As far as seeing the numbers of new people moving into western North Dakota, we're not past the midpoint."

Steiner, who is the District 37 state representative, said she thought western North Dakota would continue to grow. She added cities like Dickinson could have some growing pains.

"I have a lot of confidence in our city commissioners and Stark County commissioners," she said. "I have a lot of confidence that they are going to be able to handle the growth, but we are going to see some changes."

Despite the negatives that accompany the oil boom and growth, Steiner said it does have its good points.

"There is a lot of opportunity for young people," she said. "Our communities will see a lot of prosperity in the coming years."