New record for oil production in ND; Bakken-Three Forks outlook released

Sep 16, 2018

North Dakota Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms at his monthly "Director's Cut" briefing (9-14-18).
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A new record for North Dakota oil production.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms made that announcement Friday during his monthly "Director's Cut" briefing. The numbers come from July production.

"We're at 1.27 million barrels a day," Helms said. "To be exact, 1,269,366 barrels per day – a new all-time high."

Helms says the state also set a record in natural gas production – up 4.3 percent from the previous record.

But Helms said the downside is – the state is again failing to meet gas capture goals. Right now, companies need to capture 85 percent of natural gas produced by oil well drilling.

"Gas capture fell to 82 percent," Helms said.

Helms said one gas production plant was down for at least a part of July. And a new plan won’t be on line as soon as expected. Helms said that may mean some companies will be facing production restrictions.

"With those kind of flaring numbers, and production increases, I would expect there to be some companies subject to production restrictions," Helms said. "I was a bit surprised last month that there weren't any."

The standard was missed in June as well.

Meanwhile, a new industry outlook prepared by North Dakota Pipeline Authority director Justin Kringstad looks at the longevity of the oil play in western North Dakota.

Kringstad presented the study to the state Indsustrial Commission. He told the Commission the play is price dependent.

"As prices increase, the area of North Dakota that is economically attractive increases," Kringstad said in an interview. "Where we're at today, we estimate somewhere between 20 and 60 years of additional drilling  at the pace we're at today."

Kringstad said there’s been a lot of speculation over how long North Dakota’s oil shale play would last – but this is the first formal look at what’s possible.

"The big wild card is still the Three Forks formation," Kringstad said. "That's the formation that lies right underneath the Bakken."

Kringstad said the industry is still trying to figure out how to approach the Three Forks.

"How active is industry going to get in the Three Forks?" Kringstad said. He also said the upper part of the Three Forks has proven to be economically attractive.

"The question is the lower portion, the various benches below the uppermost section of that play," Kringstad said.

And Kringstad said that’s also dependent on new technologies that are constantly being developed by the industry. He said he expects this study will be updated frequently.