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North Dakota's oil patch continues to struggle

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 20:24:00-04

Job losses are continuing to pile up in the oil patch, with North Dakota reporting more than 9,200 lost jobs.

The latest report from North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources warns that as funding for the government's Paycheck Protection Program expires, thousands of additional jobs could dry up as well.

That's just some of the bad news from the Bakken oil fields this week, where the number of active oil rigs dropped to just 10. Meanwhile, Baker Hughes' nationwide rig count fell to 279 last week, the sixth week in a row that measurement has set an all-time low. Baker Hughes has been tracking the rig count since 1944.

The current slump in the oil industry is also reflected in North Dakota's April production report, which shows a drop of nearly 8 million barrels since March.

North Dakota March production was 44.3 million barrels (1.4 million barrels/day). In April, those numbers fell to 36.6 million barrels (1.2 million barrels/day). The state's all-time high production was set in November of 2019, at 1.5 million barrels/day.

Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms also pointed to a dramatic decline in the number of well completion crews working North Dakota, which fell from 25 to 1.

In Montana, Alan Olson, executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association, says the current industry downturn is the worst he's ever seen.

"We've lost some really good people, and with them a number of high-paying jobs," said Olson.

At the same time, Olson told MTN News he remains optimistic, noting that Monday's West Texas Intermediate price of $37.29/barrel represents close to a $70/barrel increase since April, when oil prices fell into negative territory.

In his monthy Director's Cut Report, Helms said the demand for liquid fuels appears to have bottomed out in May.

Looking ahead, Helms cautioned that a return to full recovery levels is not expected until the first or second quarter of 2021.

North Dakota Rig Count:

March 52 (All time high 218 - 2012)

April 35

May 17

June 10

U.S. 279 (All time low)

North Dakota Oil Production:

March 44,333,320 barrels

April 36,572,571 barrels