UPDATED: North Dakota oil production down 2.7 percent in January

WILLISTON - North Dakota lost roughly $90,000 a day in oil tax revenue as low oil prices continued to slow production, the state's top oil regulator said Friday.

WILLISTON – North Dakota lost roughly $90,000 a day in oil tax revenue as low oil prices continued to slow production, the state’s top oil regulator said Friday.

The state’s oil production fell 2.7 percent in January to 1.12 million barrels per day, the Department of Mineral Resources said, citing preliminary figures.

The drop of more than 30,000 barrels per day at today’s oil prices equates to a loss of roughly $90,000 a day in oil tax revenue, said Director Lynn Helms.

January’s decrease followed a similar production decline in December, and February and March levels are projected to drop by at least as much, Helms said.

“We’re losing altitude pretty rapidly,” he said, adding that low oil prices are expected to continue at least until the third quarter of this year.


Thirty-two drilling rigs were operating in North Dakota on Friday, the lowest since 2007. Helms said he expects operators to pull at least two more rigs. At this time last year, North Dakota had 112 active drilling rigs.

Companies aren’t likely to consider putting rigs back to work in North Dakota until the price of West Texas Intermediate crude is above $60 a barrel for three consecutive months, Helms said. On Friday, the price was below $40 a barrel.

Once operators are confident that prices are going to hold, they expect to take up to 12 months to raise capital to begin drilling again, Helms said.

“We’re talking about 15 months before the rigs actually go back to work,” he said.

Natural gas production also fell in January by 2 percent to 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, the preliminary figures show.

The percent of natural gas flared in January was 13 percent, down from 15 percent. The volume of natural gas flared decreased by nearly 32 million cubic feet per day to nearly 223 million cubic feet per day.

The primary reason for the drop in flaring was the addition of Oneok’s Lonesome Creek gas processing plant and compressor facilities that are now in operation in McKenzie County, Helms said.

Crews completed 82 wells in January, compared to 81 in December. The number of wells that were drilled but waiting on hydraulic fracturing crews remained unchanged at the end of January at 945.


Helms said he expects crews to complete more wells once the WTI price reaches $50 to $55 a barrel.

The state now has 1,334 inactive wells, an increase of 151 since December, Helms said. Many of those are low-producing wells that have mechanical failures or other issues that aren’t economical to fix at today’s prices.

The amount of crude transported by rail fell to about 500,000 barrels per day in January, down from about 700,000 barrels per day last fall, according to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

Rail accounted for 40 percent of crude oil transportation in January, compared to 52 percent by pipeline.

Director Justin Kringstad said the Dakota Access Pipeline, which received regulatory approval in Iowa this week, would further reduce the amount of oil being shipped by rail.

The pipeline, with initial capacity of 450,000 barrels per day, would transport Bakken crude to Gulf Coast refineries through a hub in Patoka, Ill.

“With market conditions the way they are today, all things point to that we would see a significant reduction in rail movements,” Kringstad said.

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