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North Dakota Reaches 1M b/d Production Milestone

As anticipated for months, North Dakota finally cracked the magic 1 million bbl mark for daily crude oil production in April, joining an elite list of oil-producing states and nations, according to state officials Tuesday who released the most recent production totals for oil and natural gas. Records keep being set with regularity.

Passing of the milestone came despite three bad weather days in April that curtailed production activities, said Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Director Lynn Helms, adding that a much larger surge in production is expected when the May, June and July statistics are tabulated later in the summer.

"This is big news when you look at the world of crude oil production," said Helms during a monthly webinar held to discuss the state's latest production totals. He said only three other states have ever hit this production level (Texas, Alaska and California). "Texas is still producing above this level, and Alaska and California at one time did [prior to 2003 and 1986, respectively]." In Canada, the province of Alberta produces more than 1 million b/d.

"Worldwide, there are 115 countries producing oil, and only 20 produce more than 1 million b/d, so we're in the top 17% globally." In terms of revenue for the state, Helms said the new production level means more than $10 million per day in revenues for infrastructure and schools as drilling permit activity and well counts continue to be strong.

In April, overall oil production was 30.03 million bbl, slighting less than the previous month's total of 30.29 million bbl, with the daily figure hitting just beyond 1 million b/d, compared to 977,178 b/d in March.

For natural gas, which passed its big milestone last fall when it topped 1 Bcf/d (see Shale Daily, Oct. 15, 2013), the April total was another record on a preliminary basis -- 34 Bcf, or 1.13 Bcf/d -- compared with March totals of 33.6 Bcf, or 1.08 Bcf/d.

Another preliminary new record level also was reached in producing wells (10,658 in April, compared to 10,472 in March). New drilling permits were steady at 234 in May, compared to 233 in April, and the May rig count was 189, up one from April.

Current sweet crude prices are up to $91.75/bbl, compared to $88.31/bbl in May. The price of gas was down about six cents to $4.23/Mcf as delivered by Northern Border Pipeline at Watford City. The percentage of flared gas in April dropped to 30% after rising earlier in the year to near-record levels of around 36%

Helms said April was not "a particularly fine month," despite hitting the record milestones. "We lost three full days due to rainstorms that put severe restrictions on the use of county roads," he said. "And there were somewhere between nine and 11 days when the winds blew too hard for well completion activity, so we ended the month with still 600 wells backlogged awaiting fracking crews."

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