173 Rigs Running in the Bakken Region - Hess Sees Better Production and Costs

Hess' Bakken Acreage Map
Hess' Bakken Acreage Map

The Bakken rig count fell seven to 173 rigs running over the past week. This marks the lowest rig count in the region in more than two years, but there's no need for alarm. Rigs are drilling as much as 30% faster than they were at this time a couple of years ago and the rig count is less than 25% off it's all time high of 220+ rigs in 2012. In reality, more wells are being drilled at today's rig count than at any point in the history of Bakken development.

Hess reported positive results in the Bakken. The company's third quarter production is up 14% and well costs are down 18%. That's a win-win for any operator. Hess is now producing more than 70,000 boe/d from the Williston Basin.

Read more in the article Hess' Bakken Production Grows and Costs Fall

The U.S. rig count increased 4 rigs from 1,738 to 1,742 running over the past week. A total of 360 rigs are targeting natural gas (16 less than last week) and 1,376 (19 more than last week) are targeting oil in the U.S. The remainder are drilling service wells (e.g. disposal wells, injection wells, etc.). 175 rigs are running in the Williston Basin.

Not all rigs counted in our census are drilling for the Bakken, but it's close. The NDIC estimates 95% of activity in this region targets the Bakken and Three Forks formations.

Note: The NDIC reports 180 rigs are active in North Dakota. That is 18 more than Baker Hughes reports in the Bakken area. The difference is likely accounted for in the number of rigs actually working, rigs that might not be serviced by Baker Hughes AND areas outside of the Bakken fairway. On any given week, a certain number of rigs are in route to the next well location or idle waiting to drill the next well. The NDIC notes that more than 10 rigs are in the process of moving in and rigging up.

Bakken Oil & Gas Rigs

The number of oil rigs running fell to 173. WTI oil prices were trading near $95/bbl to end the week. The commodity held above $100/bbl for 15 weeks, but has been falling for a little over two weeks. Williston Basin Sweet crude traded at $81.19/bbl on Oct 31st. Watch the WTI to Brent spread. It's more than $11 today, which is enough to create demand for more oil to move by rail to the coasts.

The natural gas rig count in the region held flat at zero. Natural gas futures (Henry Hub) were trading near $3.50/mmbtu on Friday. Natural gas delivered to the Northern Border pipeline in Watford City is trading near $3.00/mmbtu. A little more than 10% of the production stream from the Bakken and Three Forks is attributable to natural gas.

McKenzie County led development with 57 rigs running. Dunn, Mountrail, and Williams counties are the only other counties with more than 20 rigs running. View the full list below.

Activity is dominated by horizontal drilling: 153 rigs are drilling horizontal wells, 16 rigs are drilling directional wells, and four rigs are drilling vertical wells.

Bakken Oil & Gas News

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Bakken Drilling by County

What is the Rig Count?

The Bakken Shale Rig Count is an index of the total number of oil & gas drilling rigs running across Montana and North Dakota. The rigs referred to in this article are for ALL drilling reported by Baker Hughes and not solely wells targeting the Bakken formation. All land rigs and onshore rig data shown here are based upon industry estimates provided by the Baker Hughes Rig Count and/or Smith Service Co's (Schlumberger) Smith Rig Count.