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An oil well site is located southeast of Ross.

North Dakota oil production held steady in January at 1.4 million barrels per day while natural gas production reached a new high, the Department of Mineral Resources said Friday.

The state produced 2.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas in January, an increase of 2.6 percent, according to preliminary figures.

Operators focused activity on the core of the Bakken, where wells produce the most gas associated with oil production, said Director Lynn Helms.

“We’re back to that pattern where gas is increasing much faster than crude oil and putting pressure on the gas gathering and processing,” Helms said.

Oil companies captured a record volume of natural gas in January at 2.2 billion cubic feet per day. The volume of gas flared in January decreased slightly to 507 million cubic feet per day, staying at 19 percent statewide. The North Dakota Industrial Commission gas capture goal calls for operators to limit Bakken flaring to 12 percent.

Several natural gas processing plants are under construction in northwest North Dakota, but not expected to catch up with growing volumes of natural gas until late this year or early 2020, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

Helms said he expects oil production figures and gas capture numbers to be “real ugly” in February due to severe winter weather.

The number of active drilling rigs has held steady this winter, with 65 operating on Friday. But the extreme cold makes hydraulic fracturing operations more difficult, causing some companies to postpone well completions until conditions improve, Helms said.

The state had 867 wells that were drilled but waiting on fracking crews in January, a figure Helms expects to keep growing until this spring.

Operators have indicated the rig count may grow to 70 by the end of the year due to stronger oil prices, Helms said.

About 75 percent of the state’s crude oil production was transported by pipeline in January while 18 percent was transported by rail, Kringstad said.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)

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