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Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, shown in this September file photo, reported the latest oil and gas production figures on Tuesday. The state produced 1.38 million barrels of oil per day and 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

North Dakota produced 1.38 million barrels of oil per day in November, a 1.2 percent drop as winter weather arrived and operators were uncertain about gas capture regulations, the state’s top oil regulator said Tuesday.

Natural gas production dropped about 1.5 percent to 2.5 billion cubic feet per day, Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms said.

The industry flared 20 percent of Bakken gas in November, or 21 percent of gas statewide. The North Dakota Industrial Commission gas capture target requires companies to limit flaring from Bakken wells to 12 percent as of November, but operators missed the state’s target for the seventh month in a row.

The volume of gas flared stayed flat at about 527 million cubic feet per day, according to the preliminary figures.

Helms estimates that operators voluntarily restricted oil production by 99,000 barrels of oil per day in an attempt to reduce natural gas flaring.

Flaring increased to 32 percent on trust lands within the Fort Berthold Reservation.

“That’s our problem area; that’s our struggle,” Helms said.

Drilling increased at Fort Berthold in November, which Helms said is likely because operators want to develop wells before upcoming changes to how flaring is regulated and a potential discussion at the state Legislature about the state-tribal oil tax agreement. The reservation had 2,017 active wells as of November, a record for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

The partial government shutdown has stalled talks with the Bureau of Land Management over changes to how flaring is regulated, Helms said.

The federal agency plans to defer oversight to state and tribal leaders, but the workers involved with those discussions have been furloughed, according to Helms.

State officials indicated they had hoped to have an agreement in place with the BLM by February, but Helms said the shutdown will delay the timeline by at least a month.

The shutdown also has stopped the Bureau of Indian Affairs from reviewing right-of-way applications for pipeline projects, Helms said.

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, reported an increase in flaring from wells that are not connected to a pipeline. Typically, a majority of flaring comes from wells that have pipeline connections but the infrastructure is inadequate.

Sixty-eight drilling rigs operated in the state as of Tuesday.

Kringstad said recent improvement in oil prices indicate there’s growth potential for oil production over the winter.

“Industry could grow, but that growth rate is going to be heavily weighted by Mother Nature and other seasonal factors,” Kringstad said.

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

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