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North Dakota Drillers Need More Fracking Crews, State Says

Energy companies exploring North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation for oil need more field crews amid a labor shortage that left hundreds of wells awaiting hydraulic fracturing, a state official said.

The number of wells awaiting hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is “holding constant” at about 300 above normal after mild weather during the fourth quarter allowed drillers to accelerate work, said Lynn Helms, the state’s mineral resources director.

Fracking is an intensive drilling technique that involves forcing millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand underground to smash fissures in oil- or natural gas-soaked rock.

“This indicates that fracturing services are now keeping up with drilling activity, but the industry needs to add more crews to catch up,” Helms said in an e-mail today.

North Dakota surpassed OPEC member Ecuador as a crude producer in November when output jumped 42 percent from a year earlier to an average of 510,000 barrels a day, the state said on Jan. 10.

Helms said new drilling rigs will need to be built to meet expanding North Dakota demand because 95 percent of the equipment in the region capable of drilling 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) underground is booked. There were 202 rigs operating in the state today, close to the record high of 204 recorded on Nov. 19, Helms said.

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