In the oil patch

BISMARCK North Dakota has set a new all-time high in oil production of 782,812 barrels of oil per day.

March was the eighth month in a row that North Dakota produced more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day and the 782,812 barrels sets a new all-time monthly record.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources released the new monthly oil production figures and other data Wednesday. The data released this week is preliminary.

The state also set new all-time high records in gas production and producing wells in March: 846,906 MCF per day in gas production and 8,634 producing wells.

As of Wednesday, 194 rigs were actively drilling in the oil patch.

Lynn Helms, director of the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, said in his monthly report “Director’s Cut,” that March weather was much worse than February with three major storms. He said the drilling rig count increased slightly but the number of well completions dropped by 30, to 140. He said the number of completions is above the threshold needed to maintain production so oil production rose slightly, up 0.5 percent from February.

Helms said operators are gradually picking up the pace as summer weather begins while continuing to push higher efficiency and cost-cutting measures.

He said uncertainty surrounding the federal policies on taxation and hydraulic fracturing regulation continue to make capital acquisition more difficult, but the new U.S. Geological Survey recoverable reserve estimate has bolstered confidence in the long term.

The U.S. Geological Survey announced April 30 that the Bakken and Three Forks Formations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana have about 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered and technically recoverable oil.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the upper end of the estimate is 11.4 billion barrels.

The assessment of both formations, the largest unconventional oil resource the U.S. Geological Survey has ever assessed, is more than twice the previous estimate of 3.65 billion barrels for just the Bakken Formation which was identified in a 2008 assessment.

Helms said in his monthly report that more than 95 percent of the drilling continues to target the Bakken and Three Forks formations.

He said crude oil take-away capacity continues to be adequate as long as rail deliveries to the coasts keep growing.

Helms noted the number of rigs actively drilling on federal surface in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands remains at four.

He said the number of rigs drilling on the Fort Berthold Reservation is down by one, to 26 with five on fee land (land not held in trust by the federal government) and 21 on trust land. Fort Berthold now has 875 active wells producing 150,959 barrels of oil per day, he said. He said 170 wells on Fort Berthold are waiting for completion, 287 drilling permits have been approved and there are 2,477 potential future wells.

Helms said leasing activity is very slow and what is under way is mostly renewals and top leases in the Bakken-Three Forks area.

According to the state summary report, McKenzie County had the highest number of wells actually producing and capable of producing during March 1,760 and 2,010, respectively, followed by Mountrail County, 1,543 and 1,608, respectively; Williams County, 1,288 and 1,395, respectively; and Dunn County, 1,049, and 1,106, respectively.

Other counties with fewer than 1,000 producing and capable of producing wells in March listed in the report include Billings, 487, 604; Bottineau, 521, 606; Bowman, 482, 579; Burke, 461, 545; Divide, 432, 464; Golden Valley, 84, 93; McHenry, 10, 17; McLean, 47, 56; Mercer, 1, 1; Renville, 266, 304; Slope, 18, 19; Stark, 173, 195; and Ward, 12, 22.