North Dakota oil regulators ordered privately held Zavanna LLC to shut in oil wells near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers Wednesday after more than 1.5 inches of rain raised flooding concerns.
The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) said there was concern the confluence, near the state oil capital of Williston, could exceed flood stage levels of 22 feet by the weekend after Tuesday’s rainfall, which easily surpassed the record of 0.9 inch set in 2002.
Denver-based Zavanna, which produces roughly 10,000 barrels of oil per day in North Dakota, typically keeps 15 wells near the confluence shut in during May due to flooding concerns. The state’s order on Wednesday effectively forces the company to keep four of those wells closed for the foreseeable future. The company is voluntarily choosing to keep the additional 11 shut.
“We’re going to wait until we’re more comfortable starting them up,” said Kelsi Waite, a production engineer at Zavanna.
The DMR said it had increased inspections in the area to make sure producers end up prepared for flooding.
“These steps include ensuring adequate diking remains in place and securing any equipment on site, such as filling tanks with fresh water,” said Dave Hvinden, a DMR field staff supervisor.
Other oil producers near the confluence, including Statoil , Exxon Mobil’s XTO Energy and Oasis Petroleum , have the option of voluntarily shutting in wells as they are not as close to the confluence, state officials said.
Statoil said it has not shut in any wells yet. “Should conditions change, we will shut in the wells well before flood waters reach our pads,” Statoil spokesman Jim Schwartz said.
Representatives for XTO and Oasis were not immediately available to comment.