Reaching a milestone

BISMARCK North Dakota has reached a preliminary new all-time high of 10,186 producing wells in the oil patch.

In January, the state had 10,114 producing wells.

North Dakota’s crude oil production remains below the million barrels a day mark but did climb to 951,340 barrels a day in February, according to the state’s oil and gas report released Friday.

Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, said at a news conference Friday that the Fort Berthold Reservation is a major producer of oil in North Dakota and that 271,121 barrels of oil a day of the 951,340 were produced on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

That amounts to Fort Berthold producing 28.5 percent of the state’s crude oil.

In January, the state produced 16,214 more barrels of crude a day (931,120 barrels a day) compared to the February amount.

The state’s production numbers normally are about two months behind.

Helms said the drilling rig count was “pretty much unchanged” from January to February.

He said the biggest production impact was still the weather, with February having nearly three weeks with below normal temperatures and a few days with high winds so completion work could not be done.

Helms said at a news conference in Bismarck Friday that there’s a gradual increase in rig count as the other basins shake out. He said people are finding that the Bakken-Three Forks formations have the best rate of return of any of the shale basins in the country. He said that’s particularly true in a rectangular area from Watford City to Ray to Stanley and down to Killdeer.

The number of rigs actively drilling in the oil patch was 191 as of Friday. McKenzie, Williams, Mountrail, Dunn and Divide are the five most active counties for drilling.

As the weather gets better, Helms said there will be a big surge in well completions.

Helms said permit activity has returned to normal now as operators start planning for summer programs.

The number of rigs actively drilling on federal surface in the Dakota Prairie Grassland in western North Dakota remains at one, Helms said.

The activity on the Fort Berthold Reservation includes 24 rigs actively drilling, 1,163 active wells, 153 wells waiting on completion and 296 approved drilling permits.

Helms said North Dakota leasing activity is very low right now.

The percentage of gas being flared remained at 36 percent mainly because of the temporary shut down of the Tioga gas plant for its expansion starting in November. Helms said the new plant is now operating and should be at full capacity soon.

He said a hearing to address natural gas flaring dealing with modification of about 340 proper spacing orders has been scheduled for April 22 at the N.D. Oil and Gas Division offices in Bismarck.

Helms said the Department of Interior plans to issue a final rule by the end of this year on the draft Bureau of Land Management regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. He said the rules will have a major impact in North Dakota because of the extensive production on Fort Berthold and federal lands.

He said BLM also is starting the process of new venting and flaring regulations and has scheduled an input session May 9 at 4 p.m. MDT in the Ramada Grand Hotel in Dickinson.