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Slowdown in North Dakota's oil patch

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – North Dakota's oil activity remains slow -- but the director of the state's Oil and Gas division says if prices stay where they are or rise a little, drilling will pick up.

Lynn Helms says as of last week, there were only six rigs working in North Dakota's oil patch.

"We generally consider healthy times in the oil patch when we have about 20 rigs working. So, we're well below a level where we can start to see added production. With six rigs running, we'll have a hard time maintaining production at 85,000 barrels a day."

But Helms says the good news is -- all six rigs are using methods to retrieve the harder-to-get oil. The technology includes horizontal drilling and injections.

"Many, many of our old existing North Dakota oil fields have a lot of potential left in them."

Helms says six rigs is not a record low for the oil patch. He says in February, 1999 -- NO rigs were working in the oil patch. And Helms says he's been hearing a lot of interest in drilling in existing units in North Dakota. He says that will depend on price.