BISMARCK, N.D., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Exploration and production activity in North Dakota continued testing new lows as the rig count dropped 7 percent from last week, state data show.
State data show 38 rigs in active service as of Monday, three less from last week. The all-time low point is zero and the current rig count is 15 percent below the last record low of 45 reported in August 2009.
Lower crude oil prices means less spending is available for energy companies to invest in exploration and production, the upstream side of the energy sector. Oil field services company Baker Hughes recorded 514 rigs in active service across the United States for the week ending Feb. 19, a 5 percent decline from the previous week and a 60 percent decline from one year ago.
On this date in 2012, the state reported 203 rigs were actively exploring for or producing oil or natural gas in the state, which marked an increase from that year's previous week. Monday's rig count in North Dakota is 70 percent lower than last year.
The state reported oil production for December, the last full month for which data was available, was 1.15 million barrels per day, down 2.4 percent from the previous month and 6 percent lower than December 2014, when the state set its record-high at 1.23 million bpd.
Natural gas production in December was only slightly lower than the previous month at 1.67 million cubic feet per day. November 2015 gas production in North Dakota set a record at nearly 1.68 million cubic feet per day.
Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission's Oil and Gas Division, said in a report last week the rig count held steady in late 2015, but was moving sharply lower in the early stages of 2016.
"Operators are now even more committed to running fewer rigs as oil prices remain at very low levels," he said.