N.D. oil production continues to rise

2012-12-17T16:41:00Z 2012-12-17T17:13:44Z N.D. oil production continues to riseBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

State oil production in the month of October increased about 2.5 percent above record levels set in September, according to numbers released Monday.

Preliminary numbers show North Dakota was producing 747,239 barrels of oil per day in October, the most recent numbers available. The state Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division said that is up from 729,248 barrels per day in September.

Natural gas production also was up slightly, with preliminary numbers showing 796,042 million cubic feet per day produced in October. That was up from the 795,806 million cubic feet per day in September.

The state also crossed another milestone in October with a total of 8,025 producing wells. This was up from 7,899 producing wells in September.

Drilling permits were down sharply in November, with 211 approved. It followed a record of 370 permits issued in October and 273 in September.

“The reason for that (the drop) is we spent the months of September and October building an inventory (of permits),” Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said.

The built-up inventory of permits will allow drilling companies to use more multi-well drilling pads and build more drilling locations before winter arrives, Helms said. It also allows time to publish hydraulic fracturing rules if required, he said.

The current buildup of a permit inventory should allow for steady drilling over the next seven or eight months, Helms said.

The rig count in North Dakota in November averaged 186. There were 183 active drilling rigs in the state on Monday.

The number of idle wells waiting to be fracked increased to 340 in October. Helms said in extreme cold winter weather, the fracking of wells becomes slower in North Dakota.

In speaking with industry officials, Helms said, he’s been told a number of drilling companies “plan on having a very high-paced first half of 2013” in fracking wells.

Approximately 30 percent of natural gas was being flared in the state in October, down from the record high of 36 percent set in September 2011.

Helms said federal Bureau of Land Management regulations for fracking on federal lands have been published in the Federal Register. More than 170,000 comments were received by the BLM during the comment period that ended Sept. 10, he said.

Final rules are expected to be published sometime in early 2013.

The Environmental Protection Agency received over 97,000 comments on its draft guidance rules for fracking using diesel fuel. The final guidance documents are expected to be published sometime in spring 2013.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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