Oil production flat in North Dakota due to worker shortage

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Oil production is flat in North Dakota due to a workforce shortage as the industry recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies say they are in need of workers to inject water, sand and chemicals down wells to crack open rock and release oil, a process known as hydraulic fracking.

State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said eight crews are currently working in North Dakota, down from at least 20 which would typically be working in the state at today’s oil prices.

“Most of these folks went to Texas where activity was still significantly higher than it was here, where they didn’t have winter and where there were jobs in their industry,” Helms tells the Bismarck Tribune. “It’s going to take higher pay and housing incentives and that sort of thing to get them here.”

North Dakota’s oil production rose 4,000 barrels per day in May, a negligible increase. The state produced about 1 million barrels of oil per day in May, the latest month for which data is available.

The fracking side of the industry is also experimenting with new techniques to reduce costs. One company is using saltwater to replace some of the freshwater used in the fracking process.

The fluid is being transported several miles through a flat line hose tucked inside another hose to prevent leaks until it reaches a fracking site, Helms said.