Bakken drilling activity in North Dakota is at levels not seen in over a year. Approximately 180 rigs were working in the state to start 2013. That's down from almost 220 in May of 2012. The almost 20% drop has many beginning to wonder how long the boom will last.
Don't let the numbers fool you. A lower rig count does not mean fewer wells will be drilled in 2013. Walking rigs will account for over 50% of the rig fleet and pad drilling will overtake single-well drilling this year. Don't forget, it only takes hours to move a rig on a pad versus days to move locations.
Consolidation of the acreage by the larger operators, like Continental Resources, also indicates we're entering a more mature stage in the life cycle of the play. This is where all of the inefficiencies are driven out and the focus shifts to applying everything that has been learned in the past few years. We're already seeing it in faster drill times and new target formations.