BISMARCK, N.D., April 18 (UPI) -- At 29, the rig count in North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producer in the United States, is at its lowest level in more than a decade, state data show.
Rig counts serve as a loose gauge for the health of the oil and gas industry. Crude oil prices are far below peak levels in 2014 above $100 per barrel, leaving most companies without the capital necessary to invest in exploration and production.
The price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil was around $39 per barrel early Monday.
State data show 29 rigs in active service in North Dakota as of Monday, down 2 from this time last week. There were 93 rigs in active service in North Dakota on this date last year and 210 deployed in 2012, the midst of the U.S. oil boom.
The rig count for Monday is the lowest it's been since 2005. The all-time low point is zero.
"Operators are committed to running the minimum number of rigs while oil prices remain at current low levels," Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, said in a statement. "Oil price weakness is the primary reason for the slow-down and is now anticipated to last into at least the third quarter of this year and perhaps into the second quarter of 2017."
Crude oil prices rallied last week ahead of a weekend meeting in Doha for oil-producing nations considering a freeze in output in an effort to stabilize the market. The meeting collapsed, however, because Iranian representatives were not in attendance.
Oil production in North Dakota as of February, the last full month for which the state has data, was 1.1 million barrels per day, down about 0.3 percent from January and nearly 9 percent below the all-time high recorded in December 2014.