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Oil production 'flat' in October, likely dropping in December, due to weather

"As flat as flat can be."

That's how North Dakota Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms described October oil production, as compared with September.

Helms held his monthly "Director's Cut" briefing Monday. He said oil production declined by .02 percent — and natural gas production also declined slightly.

In response to a question, Helms said the recent winter storm and blizzard in North Dakota also curtailed oil production.

"Our current estimate is somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels a day shut in," Helms said. And he said that was especially true in the latter days of the storm, when virtually the entire state was under a "no travel advisory," and some roads were closed.

"Crude oil trucks were not moving," Helms said. "Pumpers weren't on the road, tanks filled up and wells were shut down. We're estimating we're below a million barrels a day — probably well below a million barrels a day."

Helms said the oil companies are attempting to get back to work this week – but it’s a holiday week, and with the current cold snap, it will be difficult to get some wells back on-line.

"Once a well goes down in this kind of weather, it can be extremely challenging to get that pumping unit up and running again, and getting all the equipment warm again," Helms said. "Probably, a significant amount of that production will stay off-line until after New Year's."

Helms said the good news is 95 percent of the natural gas is being captured, meaning only five percent is being flared.

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