Natural gas production in the Bakken region grew while crude oil fell in 2021
Monday, May 16, 2022

Annual natural gas production (measured as gross withdrawals) in North Dakota’s Bakken region increased by 9% in 2021, even as the region’s crude oil production declined by 6%, according to our Drilling Productivity Report.

In 2021, natural gas production reached an annual high of 2.97 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), surpassing the previous high of 2.95 Bcf/d set in 2019 and reversing an 8% decline in 2020 amid demand decline and production shut-ins related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, the Bakken region’s average annual crude oil production peaked at 1.45 million barrels per day in 2019 and then declined by 17% in 2020 and by 6% in 2021. The region’s ratio of natural gas to crude oil production has been increasing since 2008 and continues to accelerate.

North Dakota state regulators and operators continue to reduce natural gas flaring at the wellhead that has accompanied natural gas production. The North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) raised natural gas capture targets, or the percentage of natural gas captured at the wellhead rather than flared, from 74% in October 2014 to 91% in the beginning of November 2020. As of December 2021, North Dakota’s natural gas flaring rate averaged 7.5%, which means that 92.5% of the natural gas was captured.

To meet the capture targets, midstream companies operating in North Dakota expanded natural gas processing capacity from 1.0 Bcf/d in 2013 to 4.0 Bcf/d in 2021, according to the NDIC. The NDIC expects processing capacity to increase to 4.2 Bcf/d in 2023 because more pipeline takeaway capacity has been added. In February 2022, WBI Energy placed into service the 100-mile North Bakken Expansion pipeline, which can transport 0.25 Bcf/d of natural gas from production centers in Tioga, North Dakota, to demand centers in McKenzie County, North Dakota.

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