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Rolling blackouts hurt North Dakota oil production

bakken drill.jpg
Posted at 10:48 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 00:47:59-04

Rolling blackouts that cut power to the Bakken oil fields during February's deep freeze also cut North Dakota's oil production by as much as six percent.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources reported recently that the power problems slashed the state's oil production by more than a million barrels in February. Agency Director Lynn Helms says that decrease in production was twice what his agency anticipated.

The February deep freeze forced the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to conduct rolling blackouts across its system. Helms said those outages affected Mckenzie, Williams and Dunn counties, three of North Dakota's top oil-producing areas. Helms said the blackouts came with little warning over two days in mid-February, forcing several North Dakota natural gas plants offline for hours.

On a warmer note, oil prices remain favorable this month. Thursday's price for North Dakota sweet crude at $56.75 barrel, its highest point since October of 2018. Helms noted that this month's oil prices are tracking 20 percent higher than his department's forecast.

As of Thursday, 17 oil rigs were operating in the Bakken along with eight completion crews. Helms said each fracking crew can complete up to six wells per month. That combination of rigs and crews according to Helms, is the break even point for North Dakota to maintain oil production at one million barrels per month.