Oil companies last year pumped a record high 79.7 million barrels of crude out of North Dakota's oil patch, enough to fill more than 5,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. And officials say this year there's going to be even more.

The 2009 figure amount is up almost 17 million barrels from 2008, according to the North Dakota Petroleum Council, a Bismarck-based group that represents about 160 companies. The group released its annual North Dakota oil patch statistics in a newsletter Thursday.

"Oil production was off the chart in 2009," said Ron Ness, president of the council. North Dakota's oil rush has the state poised for an even bigger year this year, he said. "I think 2010 is going to be way off the chart. That will be a fun one to do."

North Dakota surpassed Louisiana last year as the fourth-largest oil-producing U.S. state and it accounts for about 2 percent of total U.S. crude oil production, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Ness said his group compiles its annual statistics from industry and government reports, and typically released them in late spring or early summer. The group's members produce the bulk of the crude from the state's oil patch, he said.

While the state's oil production was a record at more than 218,000 barrels daily in 2009, the average cost of crude was down for the year resulting in a drop in oil tax revenues. The group said North Dakota crude fetched an average of $54.02 in 2009, down from $89.63 the year prior.

The previous production record was set in 2008 at 62.8 million barrels.

Production tax revenues were pegged at nearly $393 million, down 25 percent from 2008.

Seventeen of North Dakota's 53 counties produced oil in 2009, the group said. Mountrail County, in the heart of the Bakken shale formation in western North Dakota, accounted for 37 percent of the state's oil production in 2009. Bowman County, in North Dakota's southwest corner and outside of the Bakken, accounted for the bulk of the oil from a county in 2008, at 26 percent.

North Dakota's oil patch averaged 52 rigs daily in 2009, Ness said. The state averaged a record 119 rigs a day in 1981, but today's rigs can do the work of up to eight rigs back then, he said.

Nearly 130 rigs are drilling in North Dakota at present.

The group said 517 new wells were drilled last year at an average cost of $5.6 million, compared with 553 wells completed in 2008 at an average cost of $5.5 million. The success rate for new wells last year was 98 percent, compared with 96 percent in 2008.

About 5,200 wells were capable of producing oil and gas in 2009, producing an average of about 47 barrels daily.

North Dakota produced 92.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2009, up from 87.2 billion cubic feet the year before.

The group said the state has received about $3 billion in oil tax revenues since the industry began in 1951. More than 1.7 billion barrels of oil have been recovered during that time.

Source: Bloomberg.com

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