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North Dakota Production Back on the Rise

Although still reflecting some remnants of winter's slowdown, North Dakota production of oil and natural gas hit new all-time highs in March, rising from February's lull. Rig counts were down slightly, but well completions increased sharply and the producing well count hit a new high.

March began with three days of temperatures well below zero, along with nearly a dozen days of high winds and a last day of the month with eight inches of snow. But despite these hurdles, the production numbers climbed to new records, according to Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) whose oil/gas division oversee oil/gas activity.

"We had three very difficult winter months [December through February], but we still did 977,000 b/d with lingering winter weather throughout March," Helms said during a webinar Tuesday to release the latest production statistics. "But the larger surge in production we expected in March didn't happen [see Shale Daily,March 14]."

Oil production for March was 30.2 million bbl, or 977,051 b/d, a new record, compared to 26.6 million bbl (952,055 b/d) in February. Gas production was 33.6 Bcf, or 1.08 Bcf/d, in March, compared to 29.7 Bcf, or 1.06 Bcf/d, a month earlier.

There are 635 wells still awaiting completion, meaning "completion crews are still behind, largely due to road restrictions and wet roads," said Helms, adding that permitting has returned to near normal at 250 in March and 233 in April.

The drilling rig count was 193 in March and 192 at present, staying steady in the 185 to 195 range, Helms said. The all-time rig count set two years ago was 218. Flaring of associated natural gas at the wellsites was down to 33% in March, and Helms said he expects it to drop to the low- to mid-20% level by the end of the year.

Helms said he anticipated a lot of impact on operators starting June 1 with the new permitting requirement that gas capture plans be included for each new well (see Shale Daily, March 5). "In the absence of a gas capture plan, permits will be put on hold and they won't move through the system," he said. Requests for high-intensity drilling also will require gas capture plans.

"The number of well completions was up sharply [in March] from 70 [in February] to 200," Helms said. Producing wells hit 10,457 in March and there were 11,702 wells capable of production.

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