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North Dakota rig count down 20 percent so far this year

Rig activity in No. 2 U.S. oil producer is pressured by lower crude oil prices.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Jan. 25, 2016 at 7:57 AM
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BISMARCK, N.D., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in North Dakota is down roughly 20 percent from the start of the year, state data show.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission reports 47 rigs in active service as of Monday, down about 20 percent from the start of January. Rig counts serve as a loose barometer to gauge the health of the oil sector and North Dakota's trajectory roughly mirrors declines in crude oil prices.

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Even with a rally of more than 9 percent during Friday trading, the price for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, is down 15 percent from the start of the year.

North Dakota oil production for November, the last full month for which data are available, was relatively unchanged from the previous month at 1.17 million barrels per day, but about 4 percent below the all-time record set in December 2014.

Total gas production for North Dakota was 1.6 million cubic feet per day, a new all-time record.

The state government in mid-November reported 64 rigs in active service in the state. The all-time low point is zero and the most recent low was 45 reported in August 2009.

A state report from mid-January said the drilling rig count was more or less steady from October through December, but has fallen dramatically ever since. The NDIC said operators working shale basins in North Dakota are committed to deploying few rigs across the state as low crude oil prices put negative pressure on the industry.

"Oil price weakness is now anticipated to last through this year and is the main reason for the continued slow-down," the state report read.

As of Jan. 15, the date of the last state report, there were no major weather events that would account for a drop in rig activity.

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