By Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar (Reuters) – Crude prices in North Dakota‘s Bakken shale region have risen to their highest levels in about six months as producers in the region control production and amid doubts about the fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the main artery that leaves oil in the region. North Dakota is second to Texas in terms of US oil producing states, with about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of production. Severe weather in the region is restricting production and completion of wells, which had already been hampered by low demand in 2020 caused by the coronavirus. Concerns about how US President Joe Biden‘s administration will handle the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which can carry more than 550,000 bpd from Bakken, is also driving up prices. The possibility that the line could be closed is prompting some producers to request higher premiums for their oil, fearing that buyers could default on agreements, distributors said. Crude production in North Dakota remains approximately 20% lower than the all-time high of 1.5 million bpd reached at the end of 2019. While production from wells older than a year has recovered, production of newer wells has not done so due to a lower completion rate. . Bakken crude in Clearbrook, Minnesota, strengthened to trade just 35 cents below benchmark futures on Tuesday, the strongest since early August, traders said. The state’s rig count has held steady at around 11 since October, according to data from Baker Hughes. Production is expected to fall by nearly 20,000 bpd, the biggest drop since May, to around 1.2 million bpd in February, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Prices have risen in part due to freezing temperatures that have dropped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit in recent days. Cold weather can freeze equipment and further reduce production, traders said. Meanwhile, DAPL has been embroiled in legal battles for the past five years and faces fresh threats from the Biden administration. The latter has already taken various measures to restrict new oil and gas developments, although it has not yet attempted to close a pipeline that is currently in operation. DAPL operator Energy Transfer (NYSE 🙂 argues in court that the line should be kept open even as the US Army Corps of Engineers undertakes a new review of the impact of the line crossing under Lake Oahe , a key source of water for indigenous communities in the Dakotas. “The barrels would still move by alternative means” if DAPL closes during the review, said Shirin Lakhani of Rapidan Energy Group, an energy consultancy in Bethesda, Maryland. “This is more than enough to absorb the remaining barrels displaced by DAPL in the short term, but it would add $ 5 to $ 10 to transportation costs.” A hearing scheduled for Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia was postponed until April at the request of the Army Corps, the court said Tuesday. The court, which revoked DAPL’s permission to cross Lake Oahe, had asked the Corps for an update on what it intends to do with the pipeline.