There will be no big decline in North Dakota oil and natural gas production over the next two years, the state's chief oil/gas regulatory told an association of the state's county energy officials on Thursday. Major production will remain concentrated in four counties: Dunn, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams.

Projections by Lynn Helms, director in the state Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), show "continued strong growth" in the four core Bakken oil/gas  producing counties. In addition, Helms told the North Dakota Association of Oil/Gas Producing Counties that non-Bakken producing counties, such as Bottineau and Bowman, can expect "slow growth" of about one to five rigs during the next two years.

Helms characterized the state's booming oil/gas businesses as moving into the "harvest" phase of increased well density and deployment of enhanced oil recovery (EOR). He made his 15th consecutive annual appearance before the county officials, offering a look ahead for the state's oil/gas development.

Aside from the well-publicized efforts to drastically reduce the volumes of flared associated gas at well sites, Helms said the outlook includes more emphasis on waste management and minimization, spill reclamation and pipeline-related issues.

"We're taking a very proactive role in encouraging companies to consider beneficial uses for their waste products by recycling water, or using drill cuttings for road aggregate," Helms told the county officials.

Counties can benefit from DMR's move this year to reduce flaring and crack down on illegal dumping of water and filter socks, Helms said.

Helms explained that the state Industrial Commission's new goal for flaring reduction beginning with the first milestone in this year's October production calling for 74% captured gas with the longer-term goal of increasing that to 90%-95% by the last quarter of 2020.