Oil production is bouncing back, but North Dakota is having trouble finding workers to fill new energy jobs.
North Dakota is once again producing over 1 million barrels of oil per day, after the number dropped below a million this winter. It rebounded in February, according to figures released Thursday from the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.
Director Lynn Helms attributed the uptick to better weather and oil prices above $50 per barrel. Roads remained frozen -- also bolstering production -- allowing trucks to access well sites, where crews brought uncompleted wells online.
"Psychologically, it’s a huge, positive sign," he said. "The royalty owners will have money to spend. The workers are coming back, and they love to spend money. The industry will be making capital investments, and the state will have revenue to put into infrastructure and social programs."
But Helms thinks production could fall in the coming months before rising again later this year. That’s due to a couple reasons: Spring road restrictions will prevent heavy trucks from driving on thawing roads, and a lot depends on events overseas.
OPEC meets at the end of May. If the organization decides against extending production cuts, the price of oil could drop, once again hurting Bakken production.
Regardless, Helms expects demand and production to balance out later this year. Bakken employers are looking for 1,000 workers to fill vacancies on frac crews and production jobs. But they’re having trouble attracting them, due in part to competition from Texas oil fields.
"Some of that is because the Permian Basin picked up a few months earlier," Helms said. "The highly qualified people went there to work in the oil patch."
He said the industry and several state agencies are preparing to launch a campaign promoting life in the Bakken. Housing there is more affordable, and there are new amenities like recreation centers -- benefits that did not exist when the Bakken boomed a decade ago.