North Dakota oil regulators ordered small, privately held Zavanna LLC to shut in oil wells near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers on Wednesday after more than 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of rainfall sparked flooding concerns. The state’s Department of Mineral Resources said it is concerned the confluence, located near the state oil capital of Williston, could exceed flood stage levels of 22 feet (6.7 meters) by this weekend after Tuesday’s rainfall, which easily surpassed the record of 0.9 inch (2.3 cm) 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 those wells closed for the foreseeable future.
“We’re going to wait until we’re more comfortable starting them up,” said Kelsi Waite, a production engineer at Zavanna. Other oil producers nearby the confluence, including Statoil , Exxon Mobil’s XTO Energy and Oasis Petroleum , have the option to voluntarily shut in wells as they are not as close to the confluence, state officials said.
Representatives for the three companies were not immediately available to comment. Zavanna, the state’s 21st-largest oil producer, was featured in the Smithsonian Channel’s “Boomtowners” television show earlier this year.