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Rigs returning to service in North Dakota

Gains coming across the board as oil prices hover around the $50 mark.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Rigs returning to service in North Dakota
North Dakota records an increase in the number of rigs in service across the state as the price of crude oil holds steady near $50 per barrel. File Photo by Library of Congress/UPI

BISMARCK, N.D., June 13 (UPI) -- With a gain of three, the number of rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and natural gas in North Dakota is up 12 percent from last week, data show.

Data from North Dakota's government show 28 rigs in active service as of Monday, up from the 25 reported one week ago. Rig counts serve as a barometer for the health of the oil and gas industry as oil prices in part determine how much companies are investing in exploration and production.

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Though at times above the $50 mark in recent sessions, last week saw crude oil prices moving lower after a string of data showed weak conditions persisted in the U.S. and European economies. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of crude oil, was around $48.50 per barrel early Monday.

The price, however, is still more than 65 percent higher than the low point for the year as the demand pressures start to build up in a market that, until early this year, was characterized by excessive supplies. Last week, oil field services company Baker Hughes reported global markets recorded a net increase in the number of rigs in service.

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The North American market gained six rigs, or 1.4 percent, from the week ending June 3.

The market remains suppressed, however, as Monday's rig count is three short of a record low set in July 2005. The all-time low point for rigs in North Dakota is zero.

State data show oil production in March, the last full month for which figures are available, at 1.11 million barrels per day, a decline of about 1 percent from February. Natural gas production, however, reached an all-time high for the state last month at 1.7 million cubic feet per day.

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For the entire United States, government data show the slowdown in the market should last when gauged by production levels. Crude oil production in May was 8.7 million barrels per day, about 2.3 percent lower than the previous month. Production is expected to decline to an average 8.2 million bpd next year.

North Dakota is the No. 2 oil producer in the United States.

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