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April 29 (Reuters) - Shale oil producer Continental Resources on Thursday said it will ramp up activity in North Dakota’s Bakken shale field this year as it shifts more of its production operations to crude oil from natural gas.
The company said roughly 70% of its well completions in the second half of the year will be focused on the Bakken versus about 50% of completions at the start of the year.
The shift comes as the company is re-orienting its production portfolio to focus more heavily on oil, Chief Executive Officer Bill Berry told investors during an earnings call.
U.S. oil prices have rebounded as coronavirus vaccine roll-outs pick up pace, and were trading around $64 a barrel on Thursday, versus around $15 a barrel a year ago as coronavirus lockdowns crushed fuel demand and battered the oil market.
“We see supply and demand is coming back into balance and that bodes well for commodity prices in the future,” Continental Executive Chairman Harold Hamm told investors. There remains a supply overhang in the market, and upward momentum in oil prices largely depends on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) “functioning as they do and have been,” he said.
Shares of Continental were up about 1.52% to $27.96 midday.
Continental, a top Bakken oil producer, said it anticipates the Dakota Access Pipeline will continue to operate. The pipeline, the primary artery moving crude out of North Dakota, is operating without a key federal permit while a U.S. district court judge considers its fate.
Continental also is kicking off activity in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, with plans to operate two drilling rigs there this quarter, executives said.
The company, which entered the region with its acquisition of Samson Resources in March, plans to drill its first well there in coming days, executives said. (Reporting by Liz Hampton;Editing by Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler)