Rig count moves lower as weakness in oil prices drag on activity in North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producer in the United States. Photo by David Gaylor/Shutterstock
BISMARCK, N.D., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- North Dakota exploration and production activity held below the most recent historic low point Monday, with the No. 2 oil producer losing a rig from last week.
State data show 41 rigs in active service as of Monday, one less from last week. The all-time low point is zero and the current rig count remains below the most recent low of 45 reported in August 2009. On this date in 2012, the state reported 202 rigs were actively exploring for or producing oil or natural gas in the state and Monday's rig count is 70 percent lower than last year.
Crude oil remains a dominate factor behind slumping activity in exploration and production, known as the upstream side of the energy sector. The North Dakota Industrial Commission said last month operators are committed to running fewer rigs and are expecting oil prices will remain weak throughout the year.
Last week, oil services company Baker Hughes reported 541 rigs in active service across the United States, a loss of 5.2 percent or 30 rigs from the week ending Jan. 29. Total U.S. rig counts are lower by 60 percent from last year.
The oil sector decline is catching up with a state that once touted one of the strongest economies in the United States. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in early February that, after nearly 15 years of strong growth, the government was called on to cut 4 percent from its budget to address an expected $1 billion budget gap.
As recently as October, the governor's office said the state economy was resilient and opportunities were "plentiful."
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.