November 20, 2013

Another record month

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

September was another month of records, according to Lynn Helms, director of Mineral Resources for the North Dakota Industrial Commission. Oil production in North Dakota jumped from 911,186 barrels of oil per day (bpd) in August to 931,940 bpd in September.
Though McKenzie County is still the leading oil and natural gas producer in North Dakota, its September oil production totals dropped slightly from 8,463,209 in August to 8,323,751 in September. But, the county’s natural gas production rose from 11,953,063 MCF in August to 12,502,320 MCF in September.
According to Helms, September’s numbers, though a new all-time-record, likely indicate that the state of North Dakota will not begin producing one million bpd of oil until after the first of 2014.
In addition, after crunching some numbers, Helms reports that 93 percent of the amount of oil being produced in North Dakota is coming from the Bakken and Three Forks formations.
“That is a stunning number,” states Helms. “Especially when you consider that were it not for the Bakken and Three Forks wells, our production would be seven percent of what it is today. That is roughly 65,000 bpd.”
Helms also reports that 61 percent of the wells that are producing are modern Bakken and Three Forks horizontal wells.
“These figures speak to how productive these wells actually are,” states Helms. “Almost two-thirds of our wells are producing roughly 93 percent of our oil.”
Helms is also pleased to see that permitting activity is up and rig counts are steady.
Well completions continue to struggle, but Helms states that he is learning that the ups and downs of completion has to do with batch processing on multi-well pads. He estimates that at the end of September, there will be roughly 520 wells waiting on completion.
Another concern for the industry is the significant drop in the price of sweet crude, which Helms states will only drive a lot more oil to rail cars for transportation.
“I haven’t heard a significant reason for the $14 decrease in the price of sweet crude, but this will push more oil, faster, to the East and West Coast to avoid the $14 drop in price. Especially since the Brent price has only dropped around $3 to $5.”
On a final note, operators seem to be facing the end of this year with a lot more capital than they did last year, which should aid in end-of-the-year production numbers.
Where last year, operators were trying to conserve capital, Helms states that they have a little extra this year and are actually planning to ramp up production to make up for some of the slowdowns seen in the wet spring and fall months.