U.S. Markets open in 2 hrs 41 mins

ND posts record annual oil production again

James Macpherson, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota already has set an oil production record for the fifth consecutive year and the state is on pace to best the previous mark by more than 50 million barrels.

The state Department of Mineral Resources said Tuesday that crude production through September totaled more than 173.9 million barrels, up from the record 152.9 million barrels set last year.

North Dakota produced 21.8 million barrels in September, up from 21.7 million barrels in August, agency spokesman Alison Ritter said.

Oil production numbers typically lag at least two months. Ritter said its "pretty feasible" that the state will end the year at more than 200 million barrels, once October, November and December production results are factored.

Steve Grape, the domestic reserves project manager for the U.S. Department of Energy's information administration, said North Dakota accounts for nearly 12 percent of total U.S. crude production, up from 1 percent less than five years ago.

North Dakota trails only Texas in oil output. North Dakota has risen from the ninth biggest oil state just six years ago with improved horizontal drilling techniques in the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.

"No way has North Dakota's oil production been a straight line," Grape said. "The growth has been amazing."

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said oil companies have benefited this year from more efficient drill rigs and favorable weather.

"It's remarkable," said Ness, whose group represents several hundred companies working in the state's oil patch. "Bakken oil is going to refiners all across the country now."

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said the state has forecast oil production records over the next decade.

The ability to move crude to market is keeping pace with North Dakota's oil production, Kringstad said. Nearly half of North Dakota's crude is being shipped by rail due to the lack of pipeline capacity, he said.

Increased pipeline infrastructure that could increase so-called takeaway capacity by 195,000 barrels daily is expected to come on line early next year, Kringstad said.

North Dakota began producing oil in 1951. Ritter, of the state Department of Mineral Resources, said the state has tallied more than 2 billion barrels of oil since then, mostly in the last few years.

"We've done some number crunching, and if we average 20 million barrels a month, we could hit our 3 billionth barrel in less than three years," she said.