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North Dakota Production, Gas Prices Increase; Flaring Down

While oil and natural gas production continued on its record-breaking trajectory, North Dakota's burgeoning Williston Basin also produced some significantly higher prices for natural gas in the most recent statistics released Friday by the state Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).

Prices for gas delivered to the Northern Border Pipeline at Watford City were up by 60 cents/Mcf to $3.67/Mcf on average in October, according to Director Lynn Helms. At the same time, flaring dropped 1% to the 28% level, Helms said. The historic high for flaring was 36% in September 2011.

Gas production stayed above 1 Bcf/d again in October, hitting 1.07 Bcf/d, compared with 1.06 Bcf/d the previous month. The latest totals are another all-time high, according to Helms. Overall, gas production was 33.1 Bcf for the month, compared to 31.9 Bcf in September.

While prices remained dampened for North Dakota's sweet crude, oil production set another all-time high, reaching 29.2 million bbl, or 941,637 b/d, in October, compared to 27.9 million bbl, or 932,962 b/d, the month earlier.

The price of sweet crude, which had fallen from $92.96/bbl in September to $71.42/bbl in November, has rebounded slightly to $73.00/bbl today, according to Helms, who reported a general slowing in activities that is typical at the outset of winter.

He reported decreases in well completions (202 in October, compared with 225 in September), drilling permits (232 in November, compared with 267 in October) and leasing activity. In turn, harsher weather has increased the average number of days from spud to initial production of a well to 114 in the most recent monthly statistics.

The vast majority of drilling (95%) continues to target the Bakken-Three Forks, said Helms, adding that the rig count in the Williston Basin in increasing slowly (from 183 in October to 184 in November).

Both oil and natural gas production have increased steadily since mid-2011, according to DMR data. In May 2011 the state produced 5,339 b/d and 360 MMcf/d.

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