Gas production in Bakken grows 8% as oil slides

By Keefe Borden19 May 2022

Annual natural gas production from the Bakken in North Dakota rose 9% in 2021, as the oil production fell by 6% in the same period, according to a recent Drilling Productivity Report published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Natural gas production from the region in 2021 reached an annual high of 2.97 Bcf/d, exceeding the previous record of 2.95 Bcf/d set in 2019. Gas production fell 8% in 2020 in response to a decline in demand and well shut-ins caused by the economic effects of Covid-19, the agency reported.

As gas production has climbed, oil production from the Bakken peaked at 1.45 million barrels per day in 2019 and then declined by 17% in 2020 and by 6% in 2021. The gas-to-oil ratio from the region has climbed abruptly as production has shifted to gas. The changing ratio is partially the result of state efforts to capture more gas and send it to processing plants rather than flaring it at the wellhead.

The shift away from oil and into gas production from the Bakken is part of a long-term trend that dates back to 2008. In recent years, the trend has accelerated. North Dakota state regulators and operators continue to reduce natural gas flaring at the wellhead that has accompanied natural gas production.

In recent years, 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, the region’s average capture rate had limbed to 92.5%, the EIA reported.

To meet the capture targets, midstream companies operating in North Dakota have boosted natural gas processing capacity from 1.0 Bcf/d in 2013 to 4.0 Bcf/d in 2021. The NDIC expects processing capacity to increase to 4.2 Bcf/d in 2023 because midstream operators have added more pipeline takeaway capacity.

In February, 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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