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Energy & Environment

Oil production drops slightly for the second straight month

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

Newly released figures show North Dakota oil production declined slightly in February.

"It's the first time since December 2010 and January 2011 that we had back-to-back production declines," said state mineral resources director Lynn Helms in his monthly "Director's Cut" briefing. Helms says production dropped 14,000 barrels a day -- 9000 of which were due to production restrictions for gas capture goals.

The number of drilling rigs continues to drop. Helms says there are 91 rigs working in the Bakken -- the lowest since January 2010. And he says that was a bit of a surprise.

"Operators were telling us in December that they were going to ladder those rigs down as contracts expired," said Helms. "That's what we had built our plans around. But as they got into January and February, and crude prices were as weak as they were, quite a few operators started buying out rig contracts and laying rigs down."

Helms says 900 wells are awaiting fracking. And he says by June, that number could be 1000. But he says with the "big trigger" tax break expected to kick in starting in June, some of the wells will be completed.

"There are 125 wells that have to be brought on in the month of June," Helms said. "I think we're going to see a continued production decline through May, and then I think we'll see a big catch-up in June, which likely will take us back up close to that 1.2 million barrel a day mark."

On natural gas capture, Helms said the state has cut the flaring rate to 19 percent -- and he says it hasn't been that low since 2010.

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