North Dakota’s No. 4 — and it’s not in wheat or barley

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — There’s a proud new state slogan in North Dakota:

“We’re No. 4!”

No, not in barley, navy beans, pinto beans, canola, flaxseed, honey, lentils, dry edible peas, oil and non-oil sunflowers, spring wheat and durum wheat. The state is the nation’s No. 1 producer of all those commodities.

We’re talking oil.

Ranked ninth in oil production just three years ago, North Dakota has gushed to fourth, passing traditional oil producers Oklahoma and, earlier this year, Louisiana.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that North Dakota produced 6.38 million barrels of crude oil in May, the most recent month for which figures are available. Louisiana registered 6.34 million, Oklahoma 5.7 million.

As MinnPost reported in February 2008, high oil prices and new horizontal drilling technology in the huge Bakken shale formation in the western part of North Dakota have boosted production into record territory: 62.8 million barrels in 2008, an increase of nearly 18 million gallons over 2007.

The number of wells operating in the state [PDF] has grown from 3,339 in 2004 to 4,219 in 2008, and industry officials anticipate hitting another production record this year. A pipeline expansion project nearing completion could contribute to another new high in 2010.

Texas (32.7 million barrels produced in May), Alaska (21 million) and California (17.7 million) are the nation’s top-producing oil states, according to Energy Department statistics. Total U.S. production in May was 162.2 million barrels.

Breaking into the top three would take a tripling of North Dakota’s production.

“Never say never, but we could catch California,” Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, told the Associated Press. “We certainly didn’t see this one coming. And with the improved technology and if the business climate stays friendly, who knows?”

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by david granneman on 10/29/2009 - 10:10 am.

    hello all
    instead of wasting money on projects that have no future or possible return for minnesota. i have a solution to minnesota’s budget problems. two large oil fields have been discovered in north dakota and montana – how can minnesota profit from oil in north dakota. minnesota should eliminate environmental laws to allow private investers to build oil refineries in northern minnesota. oil could be pumped by pipeline or trucked from north dakota and the canadian oil sands. the oil could be refined into gas and oil and pumped to suppliers. this would not only ensure minnesota has cheap and abundant energy but also create thousands of high paying jobs. it would create all kinds of jobs everything from truck drivers to doctors. where there is energy developement there is growth and prosperity. there is no recession or deficits in texas. texas is creating jobs and has a budget surplus. minnesota could be the texas of the north. northern minnesota could be changed from a depressed area to a place where children could remain where they grew up and raise a family, instead of having to leave home and go to more prosperous areas to find a job. LET US NOT LET ALL THE WEALTH IN NORTH DAKOTA TO SLIP THRU OUR FINGERS.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/29/2009 - 04:37 pm.

    I don’t think it would be a good idea to forget environmental regulations. We could lose our forests and clean water and become unlivable.

    That oil does mean jobs, though, for people who wouldn’t mind moving to northwestern North Dakota. The last I heard the oil companies and the restaurants and grocery stores and auto repair places, et cetera, were all hungry for workers.

  3. Submitted by John N. Finn on 10/30/2009 - 11:33 am.

    I’m not sure if Granneman is being sarcastic or not about being “the Texas of the north”. But I am sure that there are many enterprises that could flourish here if various laws regulating or prohibiting them were eliminated.

  4. Submitted by Ray Dennis on 10/31/2009 - 04:18 pm.

    I did some quick math and determined that the gasoline refined from 3,000,000 barrels of crude oil per month would allow standard automobiles to travel the same number of miles as a fleet of Chevy Volts would travel on the electricity produced from five dual-unit nuclear power plants.

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