WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota has joined the ranks of the few places in the world that produce more than a million barrels of oil per day, due in large part to the rich Bakken shale formation in the western part of the state.
The April figures released Tuesday by the state's Department of Mineral Resources showed the record tally. North Dakota had flirted with the million-barrel-per-day mark for months, but the harsh winter slowed the pace. In March, production had hit 977,000 barrels per day.
North Dakota's oil fields now represent more than 12 percent of all U.S. oil production, and more than 1 percent of global production — a situation unfathomable just a decade ago, when technology hadn't yet caught up to the challenge of extracting oil from the shale. Since then, the oil boom and the jobs it brings have transformed North Dakota, now home to the nation's fastest-growing cities and its lowest unemployment rate.
"Reaching the 1 million barrel a day mark is a tremendous and timely milestone for the petroleum industry and our state, but it is also a tremendous milestone for our nation," U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, said in a statement, citing the need for the United States to build its domestic energy resources.
North Dakota joins Texas, Alaska, California and Louisiana as the only states ever to produce more than a million barrels per day. Of those, Texas is the only other state still producing above that level.
"Until April, only Texas, one Canadian province and 19 countries were producing 1 million barrels per day, putting North Dakota among the top oil producers in the entire world," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, an oil lobbying group.
The state's production is still dwarfed by behemoths such as Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer with nearly 10 million barrels of oil per day.
But North Dakota's ascent has been rapid. Whereas eastern Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, the top-producing oil field in the world with 5 million barrels a day, has been operational since 1951, North Dakota's oil fields have surged from producing 80,000 to 90,000 barrels per day a decade ago.
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