BISMARCK, N.D., July 11 (UPI) -- The number of rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and natural gas in North Dakota is rising, state data show, despite a slump in oil prices.
State data show 29 rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and gas as of Monday, which according to data from Baker Hughes is an 11 percent increase from roughly one week ago. Rig counts serve as a loose barometer for the oil and gas industry and, while easing somewhat, markets are swinging back to the demand side in a sign of returning balance.
Though volatile in the wake for the British vote to leave the European Union, crude oil prices have been at or near the upper $40 per barrel range for much of July, an indication some level of stability is returning to the market. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for crude oil prices, is down 7 percent from the end of June, as short-term supply pressures from May and June ease.
Oilfield services company Baker Hughes last week reported a net gain of 14 rigs, or about 2.7 percent, for North America. Kansas was the only state with any significant level of oil production to show a loss in rig counts from the week ending July 1. Of 15 states included among those with major variances, North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producer in the United States, and Texas, the No. 1 producer, posted the largest gain in rig activity.
North Dakota entered June with 25 rigs in active service, which tied a record low set in July 2005. The all-time low point for rigs in North Dakota is zero. WTI in June was 9.5 percent higher than in trading overnight Monday.
More rigs in service could lead to higher U.S. crude oil production. The glut of U.S. oil on the market put negative pressure on crude oil prices, which two years ago where above $100 per barrel.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission reported total crude oil production in April, the last full month for which data are available, at 1.04 million barrels per day, about 6.3 percent lower than March and 15 percent below the all-time high of 1.23 million bpd reported in December 2014.