(Adds details and comments on expected production increase
July 15 Oil production in North Dakota topped
800,000 barrels per day for the first time ever in May, the
state regulator said on Monday, adding that output this summer
will exceed earlier expectations as firms clear a backlog of
wells waiting to be fracked.
The state's Department of Mineral Resources said preliminary
output figures in May rose 2 percent - or 16,277 barrels per day
(bpd) - hitting a record 810,129 bpd even as record rainfall for
the month impeded new drilling.
Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of
Mineral Resources, said production increases in the third
quarter are expected to be even higher, adding at least another
60,000 bpd of production as firms shift their focus to
completing wells that have already been drilled.
"We think that June, July and August production increases
will definitely exceed the 16,000 barrel per day increase we saw
in May," Helms said in an online press conference late on
"We're anticipating production increases of 20,000 bpd a
month or more. We expect production will be higher than we
anticipated for the revenue forecast."
The latest production numbers and forecast imply production
in North Dakota could be above 870,000 bpd by the end of August,
well above an estimate by the regulator in April that said
production wouldn't approach those levels until early next year.
Oil production in North Dakota has soared from around
100,000 bpd in 2008 as developments in horizontal drilling and
hydraulic fracturing - commonly referred to as "fracking" - have
allowed producers to tap the giant Bakken and Three Forks shale
formations, transforming the state into the second largest oil
producing state after Texas.
There are now a record 8,915 producing wells in North
Dakota, the Mineral Resources Department said, though the number
of rigs drilling new wells in May increased by only one from
April to 187. That was down 14 percent from the record level of
218 hit in the same month last year.
Well completions, whereby wells undergo hydraulic fracturing
and are made ready to pump oil, rose by 10 in the month to 143,
but heavy rains led to delays in delivering frack sand and other
materials, Helms said.
"The net result is that we have increased the number of
wells waiting to be fracked," Helms said.
"There is some refocusing of companies between drilling
personal and completion personal."
The regulator said "load restrictions" had remained in place
for a record amount of time in May, which was the wettest in the
state on record.
The average amount of time from initially drilling a well to
its completion has risen to 92 days, the regulator said, but
that is expected to fall with better weather in the summer
"We estimate that at the end of May there were about 500
wells waiting on completion services, an increase of 10," the
(Reporting by David Sheppard; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer and