North Dakota’s oil and natural gas production climbed month/month in August, with producing wells tentatively reaching an all-time high.

August oil production rose 3.5% month/month, while gas production was 2.5% higher, said Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms.

Oil production was 33.6 million bbl (1.08 million b/d), compared to 32.4 million bbls (1.04 million b/d). Gas production was 60.2 Bcf (1.94 Bcf/d) from 58.7 Bcf (1.89 Bcf/d) in July.

There were 10 rigs working on the edge or outside the Bakken Shale core area, which is a gassier part of the play, Helms said.

Overall, the rig count dropped by two to 56 in August and remained there in September while producing wells increased to more than 14,000, a preliminary all-time high, from 13,992 in July.

Another trend in recent months has been an increase in merger and acquisition activity, with portfolios of wells changing ownership, said Helms. The state has 681 wells being transferred to new owners.

Slightly more than 400 wells were transferred from HRC Operating LLC to Bruin Operating, while Whiting Petroleum Corp. is selling more than 100 wells to Rim Rock Oil & Gas.

Helms also discussed the Trump administration’s attempts to revise hydraulic fracturing (fracking), venting/flaring, sage grouse habitat and rights-of-way rules on Native American lands.

“I’m a fan of simple solutions, and in the case of the federal rules that would involve applying the Congressional Review Act, in which Congress can change and rollback regulations, but the U.S. Senate lacked the votes to do this,” said Helms. “It costs a lot of money, takes a lot of time, and creates a great deal of uncertainty.

“For example, the fracking rule was overturned in Wyoming courts, so they put the rule back in place and there is an injunction, but it is going back to trial in the federal district court.”

He said, “it becomes really complicated in the administrative rule of law and court process, so the Congressional Review Act is something that really should be dusted off, and cleaned up and looked at by Congress.”