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North Dakota rig counts remain relatively stable

Upstream sector in No. 2 oil producer showing durability in weak market.

By Daniel J. Graeber
North Dakota energy sector, as reflected in state rig count data, shows level of stability in weakened crude oil market. File Photo by UPI/Shutterstock/Lilac Mountain
North Dakota energy sector, as reflected in state rig count data, shows level of stability in weakened crude oil market. File Photo by UPI/Shutterstock/Lilac Mountain

BISMARCK, N.D., Aug. 10 (UPI) -- The exploration and production side of the North Dakota energy sector is showing signs of stability despite grim forecasts from shale producers, rig data show.

State data show 73 rigs actively exploring or producing oil or natural gas in the state. Rig numbers, which serve as a barometer for the health of the energy sector, has been relatively steady in recent weeks in North Dakota, with only one rig lost in the state since last week.

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Oil services company Baker Hughes last week reported a July rig count in the United States at 866, up five from the previous month.

Companies operating in U.S. shale have said they're able to produce more with fewer rigs because of the improved efficiencies. Others have started adding more rigs. Despite posting a loss for the second quarter, Pioneer Natural Resources was among those adding more rigs, saying it would increase its capital budget for its operations focused in Texas.

Last week, EOG Resources, which holds three active rigs according to state data, said it expected to increase its net reserve potential in the Bakken and Three Forks shale play in North Dakota by 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent to 1 billion boe.

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The company's chairman and chief executive officer, Bill Thomas, said EOG was responding "extremely well" to the weak market for crude oil.

"Our team's outstanding technical and operational advances have enabled us to more than double prior estimates for our position in the Bakken and Three Forks," he said in a statement.

Nevertheless, EOG said it expects shale oil production in the United States will post major declines in the second half of the year.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission reported oil production in May, the last full month for which government data are published, at 1.2 million barrels per day, just shy of the all-time record posted in December 2014.

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