RPT-Harsh winter weather hits U.S. energy output
NEW YORK Dec 5 (Reuters) - Severe winter weather in the western United States has already dented some oil and gas production and could further crimp output in the top crude producing states as temperatures drop this week.
In North Dakota, temperatures are expected to drop to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius) by Saturday, following a three-day winter storm that blanketed the western reaches of the state with up to 8 inches of snow, NOAA forecasters said.
Portions of western Texas, home to the oil-and-gas rich Permian Basin shale play, will see freezing rain, sleet and snow with ice forming on Thursday night, according to forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Permian has become the highest yielding U.S. shale oil play, producing some 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil and 5 billion cubic feet per day of gas, according to U.S. government data. Area producers warned that freezing temperatures and precipitation will cut power, make roads inaccessible, impede access to drilling facilities and cut into production.
"The magnitude of this unanticipated weather event could result in Energen's 2013 production falling below the company's guidance range of 23.4-23.8 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe)," Energen said in a news release this week.
Independent producer Pioneer Natural Resources and Apache Corp both had production impacts last week when temperatures in Texas dropped below freezing.
Certain fields in the Permian were "especially hard hit," Pioneer said in a statement last week. The Irving, Texas-based company produced about 52,000 bpd of oil and 71,000 thousand cubic feet per day of gas in the Permian alone in the nine months ended Sept. 30.
It will be a few weeks before the company can determine the weather's impact on production, it said in the statement.
Similarly, "the freeze in the Permian has had some impact on Apache's production in the region," an Apache spokesman said, declining to quantify the amount of affected production.
Apache's oil and natural gas production from the Permian Basin rose 18 percent from a year ago to 132,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, the company said last month. WINTER IN THE BADLANDS
Winters are especially brutal in North Dakota. Although temperatures average about 13 degrees Fahrenheit between December and February, winter storms can send that number well below zero. Oil wells and feeder roads are usually shut as storms deposit snow.
Output in North Dakota, the second-largest oil producing state, ebbs in winter as top producers scale back on drilling and well completions services such as hydraulic fracturing.
In January, a winter storm dubbed "Gandolph" ripped through the state and cut that month's oil production by 4.2 percent, according to the North Dakota Industrial Commission. An especially bitter winter in Dec. 2010 took 13,000 bpd of production offline, the regulator's records show.
"Typically we prepare for this and the oil is transferred on pipelines instead of trucking it," said Eric Hagen, vice president of investor relations for Whiting Petroleum Corp in Denver, Colorado, which operates in North Dakota's prolific Bakken Shale.
Continental Resources, another Bakken oil producer, said it was monitoring the weather and would advise its field workers accordingly.
"Sometimes that means restricting traffic and sometimes that means shutting some operations down to reduce traffic," a spokeswoman said.
The effect of this month's severe weather will not be clear until the state regulator reports December output numbers in February.
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