Crude oil production in North Dakota exceeded 1 million barrels daily in February for the first time in three months, but the increase is temporary as thaw season will prompt strict weight restrictions on trucks servicing the oil patch. Production should rebound later in the year, most likely in the last quarter, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
In March and April, the department expects average output to be around 950,000 bpd before again starting to climb up in May, undoubtedly helped by the start of operation of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline: Energy Transfer Partners said in a regulatory filing that the flow of oil between North Dakota and Illinois will start on May 14.
The head of the state’s DNR Lynn Helms told media the February increase in production was a surprise and was most likely brought about by higher international oil prices. The number of active rigs in the state’s oil patch was 39 in February, up by one from January, but last month this increased to 46 and as of yesterday, the rig count was 51 – an 18 percent increase since February.
Marathon Oil had the most rigs: 10, of which nine were added since the start of 2017. Next came Continental Resources with five rigs, of them two were added since January. Producing wells in the state in February totaled 13,500, up by 159 from January. Drilled but uncompleted wells fell below 800 for the first time in more than two years, the department also said.
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According to Platts analytical data, breakeven prices in the Bakken shale play fell to $33.53 a barrel this month, from $37.91 a barrel in the same month last year, while spot prices for the crude produced there increased, providing additional motivation to producers to ramp up output. They will have to wait, however, until the land thaws beneath North Dakota roads, until which time they will have to use more trucks with lower loads as per state regulations.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.