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ND’s top oil, gas director presents last report

BISMARCK – The director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources presented his last monthly report on oil and gas production numbers on Friday.

Lynn Helms is retiring this month. He announced his retirement plans earlier this year.

Helms has presented 138 of the Director’s Cuts or monthly reports. He said the reports were started due to all of the media requests during the oil boom of 2012.

He said he expects to be called as a witness on Tuesday in federal court in Bismarck to testify for a preliminary injunction regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s waste prevention (venting and flaring) rule. He said that will be his last duty as department director.

“This is an incredible place to work. I can’t say enough about the way North Dakota has treated me and what a wonderful time it’s been working here for 26 years,” Helms said.

In his report on Friday, Helms said oil production did not quite reach 1.3 million barrels a day as he was hoping would happen but it reached 1.2 million barrels a day in April, the most recent numbers available. The all-time high was 1.5 million barrels a day in November 2019.

He said natural gas production was much stronger and up 3% – 3,490,576 million cubic feet (MCF) a day in April.

The state permitted 79 wells in April and 95 wells in May, according to the report.

Helms said the rig count has been very steady. On Friday, 38 rigs were actively drilling in North Dakota. No rigs were drilling on federal surface.

Sixty-seven (preliminary number) wells were completed in May. In April, 56 (preliminary number) wells were completed.

The state had a new all-time high of 18,962 producing wells in April. Of that number, 89% are unconventional Bakken/Three Forks wells and 11% are produced from legacy conventional pools.

Helms said activity has slowed down on Fort Berthold Reservation. The reservation produced 203,282 barrels of oil a day. There are 2,920 active wells, nine wells waiting on completion, nine rigs drilling and 126 approved permits on the reservation.

He said 15 frac crews are active in the state.

He also said the drilling rig count remains low due to load limits, mergers and acquisitions but is expected to return to the mid-40s with a gradual increase expected over the next two years.

“Saudi Arabia and Russia announced continued oil production cuts, Middle East conflict, Russia sanctions, China economic activity, potential recessions and shifting supply chains continue to create significant price volatility,” Helms said.

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