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Bakken oil industry still struggling with slumping prices

Posted at 9:04 AM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 11:04:54-05

Oil industry layoffs across eastern Montana and western North Dakota now represent more than 20% of that sector's workforce in the region.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources points to 11,700 unemployment claims filed with the state as of Nov. 7 that are directly connected to cutbacks across the Bakken oil fields.

Department Director Lynn Helms warns that even more jobs are at risk as unpredictable oil prices and a worsening pandemic keep the lid on the number of operating oil rigs and crews.

This past week, only six completion crews were at work in North Dakota, and much of their work is cleanup and capping of abandoned wells, funded by coronavirus relief dollars provided by the CARES Act.

The number of active oil rigs held steady over the past month at 14. But even with those 14 rigs, the number of working oil rigs is down a whopping 80% from January.

As for oil prices, Helms believes the demand for liquid fuel bottomed out in August and is recovering slowly but unevenly. Industry experts expect prices won't return to 2019 levels until 2022.

By the numbers:

  • Layoffs - 11,700 unemployment claims since January 2020
  • Work crews - 6 with CARES ACT funding
  • Rig Count - 14 / down 80% January thru September

* Source: North Dakota Department Mineral Resources