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, http://www.ndoil.org/ 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?”