A drastic fall in oil prices means the booming sound from the Bakken will be muffled next year and at least one commodity expert thinks oil values will remain low for another two to three years.What it all means for North Dakota’s oil economy is far from certain, but one of the Bakken’s major drillers says half the drilling rigs could be shut down as the industry takes a wait-and-see approach to the market.Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said recently in his monthly update that the rig count — now at 181 — could fall by as many as 30 to 45 next year.By Tuesday, though, he was hearing news from Continental Resources that it expects the number of idled rigs throughout the Bakken could be as high as 90, significantly more than he had predicted. The company, owned by billionaire Harold Hamm, produces about 10 percent of the state’s daily oil output.“That’s the most pessimistic view I’ve heard,” Helms said. “That’s their view of what could happen.“If it does, that’s off-book from Continental’s own investor report for 2015. On Dec. 3, the company said it planned to maintain its 2014 Bakken activity level with an average of 19 rigs and spend $2.6 billion on oil development. That included planned cuts of $600 million for the upcoming year.Since then oil dropped off again to $53 a barrel, closing at $58 Thursday. Bakken crude is discounted another $8 to $16 a barrel because of the cost of moving it out of North Dakota. It was quoted at $35.75 Thursday.Marathon Oil has nothing to say yet about 2015 and Whiting Petroleum’s investor relations team says it will announce plans late in January or early February.
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