Thursday, November 17, 2011

North Dakota Oil Rivals OPEC Member

North Dakota Oil Production
North Dakota pumped a record 464,129 barrels of crude oil a day in September, approaching the output of OPEC member Ecuador. Production in the state has almost doubled over the past two years as oil companies tap the Bakken shale formation, identified as having as much as 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Graphic by Seth Myers

By Mark Shenk

Surging crude output in the Bakken shale formation is set to make North Dakota a bigger oil producer than OPEC member Ecuador.

The CHART OF THE DAY tracks North Dakota’s production, which has almost doubled in the past two years, as Ecuadorean output has stagnated.

North Dakota and neighboring Montana are home to the Bakken Formation, identified by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2008 as having as much as 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Companies extract the oil with hydraulic fracturing, a technique that shoots water, sand and chemicals into shale.

“There’s been an amazing jump in North Dakota output,” said Rick Mueller, a principal with ESAI Energy LLC in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “We are looking for output to be anywhere from 700,000 barrels to 1 million barrels a day within five years.”

North Dakota pumped a record 464,129 barrels a day in September, the most recent month with available data, according to the state government, up from 86,072 barrels 10 years earlier. The state is now the fourth-biggest producer in the U.S. after Texas, Alaska and California, according to the Energy Department.

Ecuador produced 485,000 barrels a day in September, according to a monthly Bloomberg News survey of oil companies, producers and analysts, near the top of its range for the past four years. It was OPEC’s smallest producer until Libya’s production was disrupted this year by the insurrection that toppled Muammar Qaddafi.

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