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AS I SEE IT

Posted 9/19/18 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The announcement this week that North Dakota’s oil and gas industry set yet another record in the number of producing wells, as well as both oil and natural gas production didn’t really come as much of a surprise to the people who have been watching what has been happening in the state’s oil patch. With North Dakota’s sweet crude oil prices at their current level, which are ranging from the upper $50s to the lower $60s per barrel, it is very profitable to be punching new wells into the Bakken, as well as bringing uncompleted wells online.
It is a staggering accomplishment to realize that just during this past July North Dakota’s 14,792 wells produced just under 40 million barrels of oil, as well as over 74 million mcf of natural gas. Those production numbers are a testament to the industry’s belief in the strength of the Bakken as they are willing to invest the hundreds of billions of dollars in wells, gas plants and pipelines and other infrastructure to help make America energy independent.
But when one takes a hard look at where all of North Dakota’s oil and gas is being produced, it quickly becomes apparent that virtually all energy activity is centered in a very small geographic area. While the Bakken region is loosely described as an area running north to south from Canada to South Dakota and west to east from Montana to the central part of North Dakota, in reality all of the state’s production of oil and natural gas is coming from four North Dakota counties - namely McKenzie, Dunn, Mountrail and Williams.
These four counties comprise the “core of the Bakken” and are where the vast majority of the state’s oil and gas is currently being produced.
How much of the state’s oil and gas is being produced in this “core” area?” According to the July production reports, these four counties produced 94 percent of the state’s oil and 95 percent of the state’s natural gas. In real numbers, the oil wells in these four counties produced 37 million of the state’s 40 million barrels of oil and 70.7 million of the state’s 74.4 million mcf of natural gas.
To drill down even further in July’s data, McKenzie County alone produced just under 16 million barrels or roughly 40 percent of the state’s oil and 37.2 million mcf or 50 percent of North Dakota’s natural gas.
And with more and more wells continually being drilled into the Bakken, one can assume that the state’s production numbers will continue to increase in the years to come.
How many more wells could be coming?
While that is anyone’s guess, a new state report that was released last week indicates that the state’s oil and gas industry could be adding another 1,200 wells each year for the next 20 to 60 years.