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Overall North Dakota Oilfield Activity Levels Off

Despite record daily production levels, overall oil and natural gas production in North Dakota leveled off in June compared with May, the state Department of Mineral Resources said Thursday.

The drilling rig count decreased by four to 139 in June, compared to May totals, said Lynn Helms, DMR director. He said there was no improvement in the average number of days to drill a well from spud to total depth (22 days), nor the average number of days from total depth to initial production (94 days).

"We estimate that at the end of June there were about 490 wells waiting on completion services, a decrease in 10 from May," Helms said. The rig count stayed at 187 in May and June, dropping by one to 186 in July, he said, noting that the all-time high was 218 rigs in June last year.

Baker Hughes data indicates that the peak Williston Basin rig count was 224 during the week ending June 1, 2012.

Natural gas production was up slightly in June compared to May (27.9 Bcf vs. 27.7 Bcf), while oil production overall dropped slightly month over month (24.6 million bbl in June vs. 25.1 million bbl the previous month).

Daily production for both gas and oil hit all-time high levels of 930 MMcf/d for gas and 821,415 b/d of oil. The number of producing wells in June also reached an all-time high of 9,071, according to the latest DMR statistics.

Helms said 95% of the drilling activity in June was in the Bakken and Three Forks formations. "North Dakota leasing activity is very low, consisting mostly of renewals and top leases in the Bakken-Three Forks area," Helms said.

North Dakota natural gas prices delivered to Northern Border Pipeline at Watford City were down 41 cents/Mcf to $2.79/Mcf in June, the DMR said. "Current oil-to-gas price ratios are 34-to-1, but the high liquids content makes gathering and processing of Bakken gas economic," Helms said.

 The percentage of flared gas dropped 1% in June to 28%, indicating that gathering and processing capacity "are catching up," Helms said. The historic flaring high remains 36% set in September 2011.

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