ND oil rig numbers fall below 100 for first time in 5 years


North Dakota may have to contemplate "a dose of austerity" as the falling price of oil has seen the number of drilling rigs in the state fall below 100 for the first time in more than five years.

The Forum reports there are 98 rigs operating as of Wednesday, which is down from 120 at the start of the month and 198 last March.

North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources head Lynn Helms told the newspaper he did not expect the rig to fall below 100, and warned that more could follow as low prices make it difficult to keep up the state's existing oil production of 1.2 million barrels per day.

The Associated Press said the drop in the price of the state's sweet crude – at $47 a barrel, almost half what it was a year ago – could lead to purse tightening at the state's capitol.

Projected revenues to the state from oil production in the next two years have gone from $8.3 billion in December, to $4 billion in January, to just $3.4 billion in its latest forecast, according to the Bakken Magazine.

It marks a stark contrast to two years ago, the AP says, when state coffers were flush with money from the oil boom, to the extent that lawmakers "spent over $1 million to spruce up the cafe at the state Capitol."

The Star Tribune reports that of the $1 billion reduction in tax revenue lost between January and March, only $300 million would have gone into the state's general fund, which the newspaper says will "make it easier for lawmakers to budget around any shortfall."

But the rest goes to funds to pay for infrastructure, schools, county governments and legacy projects, which may have to make do with less money.

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