Tight oil production in North Dakota took a big hit in January, falling by over 200k b/d.

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This article contains still images from the interactive dashboards available in the original blog post. To follow the instructions in this article, please use the interactive dashboards. Furthermore, they allow you to uncover other insights as well.


Visit the blog to explore the full interactive dashboard

This interactive presentations contain the latest oil & gas production data from all 18,940 horizontal wells in North Dakota that started production from 2001 onward, through January.


Total Production

Oil production in North Dakota from horizontal wells came in at 1.03 million b/d in January, a decline of over 200 kb/d from the previous month. Harsh winter weather at the start of the year caused many operators to temporarily shut in their wells. Natural gas production also fell by a double-digit percentage, to 2.9 Bcf/d. Unlike for oil, natural gas production has continued to increase in this state for the last 10 years, and reached an all-time high in December of 3.5 Bcf/d (toggle “Product” to gas to see this), as wells get ever more gassier. Last year 1,035 horizontal wells came online, exactly 300 more than in 2022 (+41%).

Drilling Activity

Drilling activity has steadily increased from the lows in 2020 through March 2023, although it has fallen since then to 31 horizontal rigs as of last week, according to Baker Hughes:


Number of rigs drilling horizontal wells in North Dakota. Source: Baker Hughes. WTI is shown on the right hand axis.

Well Productivity

Novi Labs’ ML models are able to generate highly accurate forecasts, even for wells that recently started production. Based on these forecasts, we can see that, although initial well productivity has dramatically increased over the years, longer term performance has not, on average:


Average cumulative oil production over 40 years of production, for a few selected vintages, in the 4 core counties of the Bakken.

The above chart shows that we expect the average 2023 well in the core of the Bakken to recover 400k bbl of oil during its first 40 years on production, a number that has not changed by much over more than a decade. Although completion designs have greatly improved over those years, tighter well spacing and running out of the best rock has countered these effects.

Operator Productivity Ranking

Well results obviously vary greatly by operator. In following overview you can see a ranking of all operators, based on their average well results since 2019, as measured by the cumulative oil production during the first year a well is producing:


Operator ranking based on average well results, as measured by the average cumulative oil recovered in the first year on production. Hz wells since 2019 only.

EOG, already active in the Bakken for a very long time, scores best on this metric; the 33 horizontal wells it has brought online since 2019 recovered on average 244k bbl in the first 12 months on production.

Gas Oil Ratios

We already mentioned earlier in this post that wells in this area are getting more gassier. The following dashboard shows in which areas the more gassier wells can be found and how gas oil ratios have changed over time:


Gas oil ratios in North Dakota.

On the map we have displayed all horizontal wells in the Bakken, and colored them by the gas oil ratio in their most recent month. In the graph on the top-right corner total oil & gas production from these wells are shown, as well as the resulting gas oil ratio (in yellow) on the right hand axis. Here you can see that 10 years ago, 1 MCF of natural gas was produced with each barrel of oil, but that this number has almost tripled in 2023.

In the bottom-right corner, we have plotted the average gas oil ratio over time, by vintage year of first production. It reveals that, although all wells are getting gassier over their lifetime, it are especially the younger wells that display a far steeper rise in this ratio.

Top operators

In the final tab of the interactive presentation at the top (“Top operators”), you can find the top 10 shale operators in North Dakota. Continental Resources and Chord Energy are in the lead, with each over 100 thousand barrels of oil of operated production in January. Note that few operators have been able to grow output in the basin over the last 5 years.


For these presentations, I used data gathered from the following sources:

  • DMR of North Dakota. These presentations only show the production from horizontal wells; a small amount (about 40 kbo/d) is produced from conventional vertical wells.

Visit our blog to read the full post and use the interactive dashboards to gain more insight:

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