North Dakota Oil Drillers Cut Rigs to Lowest Level Since 2009

  • State rig count falls to 49 as crude slumps below $30 a barrel
  • West Texas Intermediate crude dips to more than 12-year low

Drillers in the U.S.’s second-biggest oil-producing state are throwing in the towel.

The number of active oil rigs in North Dakota dropped to 49 today, the fewest since Aug. 2009, the state Industrial Commission’s Department of Mineral Resources said in a report. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped to the lowest level in more than 12 years.

"Companies are reducing their drilling plans," Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources, said on a conference call after the report’s release. There’s “a lot of pessimism” in the near term.

North Dakota produces more oil than any state other than Texas, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department. It pumped 1.18 million barrels a day of crude in November, up from 1.17 million in October, state data show.

WTI dropped to $29.13 a barrel in intraday trading today on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest level since November 2003. Prices have declined 21 percent this year, following the 62 percent slump in the previous two years.

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