Bakken crude strengthened against domestic benchmark West Texas Intermediate as frigid temperatures and precipitation in North Dakota limited output.
State production has likely been “not so great” in December after a strong November and a record in October, said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Mineral Resources Department, on a Dec. 13 conference call.
“December has been anything but nice, with arctic temperatures, icy roads and snowfall almost every day,” Helms said on the call.
Bakken oil delivered in Clearbrook, Minnesota, was $8 a barrel cheaper than WTI at 3:47 p.m. in New York, compared with $9.50 yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bakken’s discount has been cut in half since Nov. 7 and 8, when it reached $16 a barrel, the widest level of 2013. It has averaged about $5 this year.
Prices will probably stay soft for much of 2014, Helms said, explaining that low prices for North Dakota crude may challenge producers in some parts of the state.
“It’s going to make economics difficult for some of the counties, in particular Billings, Divide, Golden Valley County, those are pretty close to break-even numbers,” Helms said. “For McKinsey, Williams, Mountrail and Dunn counties, the break-even numbers are less than $40 a barrel, so it should have little to no impact in those counties.”
On the Gulf Coast, most oils strengthened against WTI. Heavy Louisiana Sweet’s premium to WTI widened 40 cents to $6.25 a barrel. Light Louisiana Sweet’s premium shrank 15 cents to $5.
The premium to the benchmark for Thunder Horse grew 55 cents to $3.30 a barrel. Mars Blend’s premium widened 45 cents to 90 cents.
West Texas Sour strengthened 75 cents to a discount of $3.25. WTI in Midland, Texas, narrowed its discount to the oil in Cushing, Oklahoma, by $1.25 to $2.
Western Canadian Select heavy crude advanced $2.25 against WTI to a discount of $25.75 a barrel, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Syncrude, a light sweet crude produced in Canada, rose $3.50 against WTI to a discount of $3.50.