Helms: Oil numbers down slightly, new natural gas production record in March

May 16, 2018

State Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The March numbers are in for oil and gas production in North Dakota’s Williston Basin.

While oil production was down slightly, signs point to record production by this summer.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms likes to have a theme for these monthly Director’s Cuts.

For the March report?

"Let's get ready to rumble," Helms said.

Helms said March was pretty cold, with a couple of snowstorms, and some windy days – all affected oil production. The March numbers were down about 3000 barrels a day from February.

"That's about one percent," Helms said.

But Helms said natural gas production reached an all-time high. And the drilling rig count is up. Helms said there’s a lot of optimism in the industry right now.

"I haven't seen this kind of optimism and excitement since 2010," Helms said. "It's great to see the industry back on its feet, with a healthy balance sheet, and excited about investing money in the state of North Dakota."

Helms saids the increasing amount of gas production will make it harder for the industry to meet its flaring goals later this year.  That target is 88 percent gas capture by November first.

"With summer coming, and increased activity, the 88 percent capture requirement on November first is not going to be easy," Helms said. He said that will likely mean the area will see a lot of construction activity – on pipelines and natural gas processing facilities –this summer.

"That's going to bring a lot of out of state workers back," Helms said. "That's what they do -- they come and build things like that, and then they leave for the winter."

Helms said five natural gas processing plants are scheduled to be built over the next 18 months.