This is technically not a story about the Marcellus or the Utica Shale. But it’s just as critical. North Dakota has just officially become the number two producer of oil in the United States, displacing Alaska for that spot. Texas still leads with the most oil production.
How on earth as ND become number two? It’s simple: shale and the miracle of hydraulic fracturing. What’s even more startling is that as recently as 1999 ND had zero drilling rigs and oil drilling in the state was dead. Just 13 years later, it’s number two in the nation. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
North Dakota has passed Alaska to become the second-leading oil-producing state in the nation, trailing only Texas, state officials said Tuesday.
North Dakota oil drillers pumped 17.8 million barrels in March, with a daily average of 575,490 barrels, Assistant State Mineral Resources Director Bruce Hicks said. That compares with 17.5 million barrels in Alaska, though still far behind Texas.
The state’s oil patch is drilling at record levels and shows little sign of slowing down. The 152.9 million barrels of crude oil produced in 2011 set a record, surpassing the previous year’s mark by nearly 40 million barrels, according to the state Industrial Commission. The number of wells in the state jumped from 6,726 in February to a record 6,921 in March, Hicks said.
North Dakota owes its rapid rise from No. 9 in just six years to improved horizontal drilling techniques in the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.
"No. 2, who would have thought?" said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents several hundred companies working in the state’s oil patch. "In 1999, we had zero rigs working and people left this industry for dead in North Dakota. Technology, geology, price and the business climate changed that."
Ness and Hicks said the achievement is bittersweet, as North Dakota continues to surpass states that have seen a decrease in oil production, including California and Louisiana.
"It’s unfortunate the way we overtook them," Hicks said. "We need to get domestic production up so we can wean ourselves from foreign oil."
North Dakota’s oil boom also has pushed the state’s population to record levels and its unemployment rate the lowest in the nation.
"This is more than oil — it’s opportunity," Ness said. "We want these other states moving in the right direction, too. This nation needs to look at energy development. Federal regulatory policies have an impact."*
*Yahoo News/AP (May 15, 2012) – ND becomes nation’s second-leading oil producer