BISMARCK, N.D., Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The number of rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and natural gas in North Dakota is down more than 65 percent from last year, state data show.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission reports 69 rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and natural gas. That's down more than 9 percent from last week and 130 rigs less than this date in 2014.
Crude oil prices of around $44 per barrel for the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, are more than 50 percent below last year's levels. That leaves energy companies with less capital to set aside for exploration and production, a trend reflected in lower rig counts.
Data published Friday from oilfield services company Baker Hughes show U.S. drillers pulling back on rig activity for the second straight week. Drillers for the week ending Sept. 11 cut rig activity in the Eagle Ford and Permian shale basins in Texas, the Niobrara shale in Colorado and the Bakken shale in North Dakota.
Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the nation, lost the most rigs last week with a net decline of nine.
North Dakota is the No. 2 oil producer. Oil production in June, the last full month for which data are available, was 1.21 million barrels per day, just shy of the record 1.22 million bpd set in December.
"Operators are now committed to running fewer rigs than their planned 2015 minimum as drill times and efficiencies continue to improve and oil prices continue to fall," the NDIC said in a monthly report. "This has resulted in a current active drilling rig count that remains five to 10 rigs below what was operators indicated would be their 2015 average if oil price remained below $65 per barrel."