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North Dakota slips to third in oil production

Posted at 1:15 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 15:15:41-04

North Dakota's standing as the nation's second-leading oil-producing state looks to be in jeopardy as New Mexico oil production surges.

North Dakota Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the competition between the two states is now a toss-up, "nose to nose", as he described it in his monthly Bakken briefing Monday.

For the past nine years, North Dakota has been number two in oil production behind Texas.

But in its latest report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) showed New Mexico edging ahead, producing 1 million, 155,000 barrels/day in March - compared to 1 million, 27,000 barrels/day for North Dakota.

Justin Kringstad with the North Dakota Pipeline Authority questioned the production figures cited by the EIA. In noting discrepancies between the state and federal data, Kringstad said the EIA report may include some estimating, while the state reports actual production numbers.

New Mexico, in fact, has seen its oil and natural gas production set new records this spring, while North Dakota production has been sluggish, at one point falling below one million barrels/day.

Helms said the state's oil production ranking is more than just bragging rights. It's also important in attracting venture capital and helps with the state's influence with new federal rules and regulations.

North Dakota did set a new record for the number of producing wells. The state reports 16,374 producing wells in April, a new all-time high. That compared to 16,212 producing wells in March.

Perhaps a sign of better things to come, an increase in active oil rigs in North Dakota from 15 to 20 since March. However, that also coincided with a drop in the number of frac crews in the state, falling from nine to eight over the past week.

And speaking of jobs, Helms pointed out a large increase in the number of "wells waiting for completion" from 628 in March to 731 in April. That backlog, he said is also an indication of the scramble to find skilled workers this summer. Helms mentioned one operator in particular, who was advertising for as many as 60 rig hands.