North Dakota rig count flirts with historic low

Rig loss from No. 2 oil producer on par with shale-rich Texas.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BISMARCK, N.D., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- North Dakota rig activity indicates the No. 2 oil producer in the nation is still flirting with an all-time low in the exploration and production sector.

State data show 64 rigs in the active process of exploring for or producing natural reserves in shale-rich North Dakota. That's down one from last week and one above the historic low of 63, set in November 2009. Rig counts for November are down about 8.5 percent.


Lower crude oil prices, off about 9.5 percent for the month, are forcing energy companies to spend less on exploration and production. Last week, oil field services company Baker Hughes reported a total U.S. rig loss of 13, or 1.7 percent, from the week ending Nov. 20. Year-on-year, total U.S. rig counts are down 61 percent and off 65 percent for North Dakota.

North Dakota's rig loss is comparable to Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the nation, which recorded a 65 percent drop in activity year-on-year.

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More than 90 percent of new oil production in North Dakota comes from the Bakken shale reserve. Of all shale basins contributing to new growth in the United States, only the Permian shale basin in Texas is expected to report an increase for December, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Bakken production next month is expected to decline by 27,000 barrels per day.


Oil production in North Dakota in September, the last full month for which data are available, was 1.16 million bpd, down about 2 percent from the previous month.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission said in its latest monthly report that operators are running fewer rigs, though they're more efficient than in the past. Rig counts may drop further, however, as the weakened oil economy persists.

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