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Natural gas is flared in April 2018 at an oil well site north of Ross.

Oil production for February in North Dakota posted its largest monthly drop in more than two years, while the state missed its gas capture goal.

Oil production in February netted about 37.4 million barrels − down 5%, or 69,000 barrels a day, from January, its largest monthly drop since December 2016, according to Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources. Weather is to blame.

"Industry suffered, I would say, from frostbite in February," Helms said Friday. Transport and heating of water for well completions are difficult in severe cold.

Oil production in February did exceed 1.3 million barrels per day, however. And the 5% January-February drop isn't doom and gloom, according to Helms.

"Not a huge a drop and very temporary," he said.

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, called the drop "a sizable shift in production."

"But it's not something that the industry hasn't dealt with before," he said.

Helms and Kringstad each said increasing oil prices will offset the January-February decrease in oil production.

Meanwhile, natural gas production dropped 3% from January to February to 2.6 billion cubic feet per day. Statewide gas capture missed its goal of 88%; instead nabbing 81%, flaring about 19%.

"We're certainly moving in the wrong direction there," Helms said. "There's a lot of infrastructure either being built or planned for this summer so I think that's going to turn around by year-end 2019, but it's not going to turn around in the immediate, near-term future."

North Dakota light sweet crude fetched about $52.75 per barrel on Friday, according to Flint Hills Resources. North Dakota has 63 rigs operating now, down from 64 in February and 66 in March.

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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