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ND now 3rd biggest crude-producing state

Associated Press Modified: March 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm •  Published: March 8, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota has overtaken California as the third-largest oil-producing state in the nation.

Production totals released Thursday by both states show North Dakota pumped 16.9 million barrels of oil in January, compared with California's 15.8 million barrels. North Dakota had a daily average of 546,000 barrels, besting California by more than 36,000 barrels.

Oil production data typically lags at least two months.

A record 152.9 million barrels of crude was produced in North Dakota last year, up almost 40 million more barrels than the previous record set a year earlier, the state Industrial Commission said.

North Dakota's January oil production was up 11,000 barrels from December. California's January total slipped about 900,000 for the month, and nearly 37,000 barrels daily, records show.

North Dakota had a record 6,600 wells producing in January, up about 200 from the previous month. California had more than 49,000 active wells, records show.

A record 205 rigs were drilling in North Dakota's oil patch on Thursday.

Bill Winkler, an engineering and research manager with California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, said it was no surprise his state was surpassed by North Dakota in oil production.

"North Dakota has been on the upsweep and we've been on the decline for quite a while," Winkler said. "With all the new production and drilling happening there, it was expected."

North Dakota's oil production has increased exponentially in the past decade with improved horizontal drilling techniques in the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said production milestones will continue, "if North Dakota keeps encouraging a positive business climate."

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