Officials: North Dakota oil output may peak within 5 years
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

North Dakota's oil production may peak within five years as companies finish drilling the most prolific portions of the state's oil patch, state and industry officials told lawmakers Tuesday. 

Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms, the state's top oil regulator, said about 20% of drilling activity is now outside the "core" areas of western North Dakota's oil producing region.

"The end of (core area-drilling) is on the horizon; we can see it from here," Helms told the Legislature's interim Government Finance Committee.

Though a typical well can have a lifespan of about three decades, the amount of oil that comes from it decreases by about half in the first two years, officials say.

Helms said the outlook now is for oil production to "plateau" for about a dozen years after a peak, then slowly decline by the end of the century to 1980 and 1990 levels of less than 150,000 barrels daily. 

The state is producing a near-record average of 1.5 million barrels of oil each day. In interviews, Helms and North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness estimated production would peak at about 1.8 million barrels daily if prices hold.

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