Low oil prices a concern in 2020

Submitted Photo Great River Energy announced plans in May it will shut down its Coal Creek Generating Station, shown with its Fly Ash Dome, in the latter half of 2022.

North Dakota’s oil industry saw low oil prices this year although the active wells in the state continued to pump more than a million barrels of oil a day for most of 2020, with the exception of May and June when numbers dropped below a million, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.

Other energy producers – coal, wind and ethanol – had some changes in store for them in 2020.

The oil and natural gas production numbers normally are about two months behind. The following 2020 numbers are available to date:


Oil – 1,430,511 barrels a day

Natural gas – 3,019,938 MCF a day

Rigs actively drilling in North Dakota – 55


Oil – 1,451,681 barrels a day

Natural gas – 3,109,750 MCF a day

Rigs – 54


Oil – 1,430,107 barrels a day

Natural gas – 3,128,393 MCF a day

Rigs – 52


Oil – 1,221,019 barrels a day

Natural gas – 2,711,851 MCF a day

Rigs – 35


Oil – 859,362 barrels a day

Natural gas – 1,928,122 MCF a day

Rigs – 17


Oil – 893,591 barrels a day

Natural gas – 1,971,816 MCF a day

Rigs – 12


Oil – 1,042,081 barrels a day

Natural gas 2,629,237 MCF a day

Rigs 11


Oil – 1,165,371 barrels a day

Natural gas – 2,635,250 MCF a day

Rigs – 12


Oil – 1,221,667 barrels a day

Natural gas – 2,813,666 MCF a day

Rigs – 11


Oil – 1,222,871 barrels a day

Natural gas – 2,873,654 MCF a day

Rigs – 14

November and December numbers are not available.

Great River Energy announced this past spring its plans to close its Coal Creek coal-fired generation station near Washburn in 2020, bringing a blow to the local communities where many employees live and count on the coal taxes. Coal Creek employs about 260 workers.

The closure will also impact the nearby Falkirk Mine, owned by North American Coal, which supplies the plant with coal and employs about 500 workers.

Jon Brekke, Great River Energy vice president and chief power supply officer, said they are “mindful of the impacts” the plant’s closure will have on employees and local communities and were doing what they could to mitigate those impacts.

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford said, during an interview with Scott Hennen, host of the radio show, “What’s On Your Mind,” the Governor’s office is working on finding a buyer for the plant and prospective buyers have stepped forward.

U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, guest of Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, visited the state this fall to hear from the state’s coal and oil representatives.

The group expressed concern about environmentalists, regulators and subsidies for renewables but were optimistic about the potential in an “all of the above” energy strategy, The Minot Daily News reported in a Sept. 2 edition.

Brouillette said President Trump’s directive has been to produce all the energy the nation can.

In 2020, the Public Service Commission designated or approved a site for one wind energy conversion facility, the Northern Divide Wind Energy Center owned by Northern Divide Wind, LLC, according to PSC information. The site is in Burke County. The size of the wind farm approved is for up to 200 MW consisting of up to 76 wind turbine generators.

In late April, North Dakota Agriculture Commission Doug Goehring announced the approval of the Ethanol Recovery Program.

Approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission and administered by the Bank of North Dakota, the low-interest loan program provides ethanol producers in the state up to $15 million to get them through the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact on them.

Biofuel plants have closed across the country, the low-interest loan program is to help support North Dakota’s five ethanol plants.


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