Bakken Output Rebounds in December After Dip From Blizzard

North Dakota’s Bakken, one of the shale formations boosting U.S. oil production to a 20-year high, saw output grow in December after slipping in November for the first time in 20 months.

Output increased 5 percent to 704,360 barrels a day, the highest level ever, the North Dakota Industrial Commission said today. Production declined 2.2 percent in November from the previous month after a Nov. 10 blizzard dumped 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow on Williston.

Increased production out of the Bakken, the Eagle Ford formation in southern Texas and the Permian Basin in western Texas helped U.S. oil output exceed 7.06 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 8, the highest level since December 1992.

“The theme for this month is ‘Back on Track,’” Lynn Helms, director of the state Industrial Commission’s Natural Resources Department, said on a conference call. “It’s exciting for us to see the November production decline was not repeated in December.”

About 90 new wells need to be completed each month to maintain production levels because of decline rates, Helms said.

In December, 123 wells were completed, compared with 76 in November. About 410 wells have been drilled and are waiting to be hydraulically fractured and completed, Helms said.

Drilling Rigs

There are 182 drilling rigs in North Dakota now. Top producers in the Bakken told the state they expect to add about 15 rigs in May or June, when the ground thaws, Helms said. Those plans could change if the federal government imposes stricter drilling regulations or new taxes on producers.

In December, 64 percent of Bakken crude left the region by rail, an all-time high, according to data from the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. That’s up from 58 percent in November and 28 percent in February, the earliest month data is available.

North Dakota production may grow to as much as 1.2 million barrels a day by 2015, Ed Morse, head of global commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets Inc., said in a report Feb. 13.

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