North Dakota passes another oil production mark

By Nick Smith - Bismark Tribune

Two more milestones in North Dakota energy production were passed in August with oil crossing the 900,000 barrels per day mark and gas surpassing 1 billion cubic feet per day.

Preliminary state numbers put North Dakota oil production for August at more than 911,242 barrels per day. This is an increase of more than 35,500 barrels of daily production from July. Production of natural gas also surpassed 1 billion cubic feet per day for the first time in August. Natural gas production had been at just more than 972 million cubic feet per day in July.

"We blew through 900,000 barrels per day in August ... 1 billion cubic feet of gas," North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms said. "These are amazing numbers. These are major, major milestones."

Helms said the 900,000 milestone comes three months after the state hit 800,000 barrels per day in May. He predicted that North Dakota would reach the 1 million barrel mark by the end of the year or very early in 2014.

Preliminary numbers for total oil production in the state for August was more than 28.2 million barrels, up from 27.1 million in July.

Total producing wells in the state were up to 9,452 in August according to preliminary numbers. This was up from 9,334 in July. There were 184 active drilling rigs in the state as of Tuesday morning. Helms said an additional nine drilling rigs are expected to be brought to North Dakota before the end of the year.

"In August the drilling crews and fracking crews were in a dead heat," Helms said.

The number of wells waiting on completion from fracking dropped from 460 in July to 450 in August.

A total of 287 drilling permits were approved in September. This was a slight uptick from 276 in August. The department typically increases permitting from August through October to allow companies to plan for winter drilling operations.

Helms also touched on the issue of flaring of natural gas.

The percentage of natural gas being flared in the state dropped from 30 percent in July to 29 percent in August.

The volume (flared) went up by 100 million cubic feet," Helms said.

The volume of flared gas increased from 9.3 billion cubic feet in July to 9.4 billion cubic feet in August due to increased oil drilling.

Helm said he'll be attending a meeting later this week of an oil and gas industry task force looking at ways to reduce flaring. The group has approximately 90 days to develop a plan that the North Dakota Industrial Commission will use to craft policy changes to rein in flaring.

According to the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration approximately 1 percent of all natural gas in the country is flared

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