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North Dakota rig count off 3 percent

All-time record low is zero, through data show shale era rig counts hitting new bottoms.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Jan. 11, 2016 at 6:16 AM
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BISMARCK, N.D., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The rig count in North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producer in the nation, continues to move lower following a heavy weak of declines in crude oil prices.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission reports a rig count for Monday at 58, down about 3 percent, or 2, from last week. The previous record low since the modern shale era for the state was 63 set in November 2009. The all-time low is zero.

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Enduring weakness in terms of crude oil prices is reflected in part in lower rig counts. Oil field services company Baker Hughes reported an inland North American rig count of 635 for the week ending Jan. 8, a year-on-year decline of around 63 percent.

According to data from Baker Hughes, North Dakota's rig count at one point last week fell to 49. The state with the largest decline in rig activity in terms of percent was West Virginia, with a 25 percent decline. The state with the largest decline in terms of actual number was Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the nation, which lost 13 rigs from the week ending Jan. 1.

North Dakota oil production for October, the last full month for which the state published data, was around 1.17 million barrels per day, roughly 5 percent below the all-time record set in December 2014.

Declines in rig activity have yet to be mirrored by total U.S. production figures. Federal data show total crude oil production of 9.2 million barrels per day for the week ending Jan. 1, an increase of about 1 percent from the same week last year.

Rig counts are used typically as a way to gauge the health of the energy sector because lower oil prices means less capital to invest in exploration and production. Crude oil prices fell dramatically last week amid market concerns over the pace of economic growth in China.

In an annual report, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said a better indicator would be the number of wells drilled and completed per rig.

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