North Dakota oil production in July dropped due to lack of available workforce

North Dakota oil production in July dropped 2.5% after a two-month rising streak, while natural gas production was up 1.3%, the state Department of Mineral Resources reported Thursday.

July oil production fell to just over 1 million barrels per day. The state’s oil figures lag two months as officials collect and analyze data from energy companies. Director Lynn Helms said the Mineral Resources Department was surprised to see the decline in July when officials were anticipating to reach June’s mark of 1.1 million barrels daily.

Helms said the drop is likely because of fewer well completions due to a lack of available workforce.

The drilling rig count in North Dakota has “stalled out” in the mid-forties, Helms said, adding that the department continues to hear “the steady drumbeat that it’s a skilled workforce problem.”

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Helms addressed a tentative labor deal that has averted a potential railroad workers strike. About 100,000 barrels of oil per day is dependent on rail to move out of North Dakota, he said, explaining that is the only means of transportation that can reach the West Coast, where three out of every four barrels is delivered.

July gas production in North Dakota totaled 3.1 billion cubic feet per day. The state’s record production was 3.15 billion cubic feet per day in November 2019. July was the first time North Dakota surpassed more than 3 billion cubic feet per day in capturing and marketing gas.

North Dakota maintained 94% gas capture in July, the same as June, and exceeded the state’s 91% target. The rest was burned off at well sites in a wasteful process known as flaring, due to a lack of access to pipelines and processing plants.

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