For the first time, Manitoba's oil industry has bragging rights over its resource cousins in the mining sector.
In 2012, oil-industry revenue slightly nudged mineral-production receipts for top spot in Manitoba --$1.51 billion in oil and about $1.4 billion in nickel, copper, gold zinc and the rest of the underground miners' production.
Last year, 18.5 million barrels of oil were produced. That's 23 per cent more than 2011 and it has been growing by more than 20 per cent annually since 2005.
John Fox, assistant deputy minister of mineral resources for the Department of Innovation Energy and Mines, said there is no reason to think production won't increase again this year.
"At 222 wells drilled already this year, we're slightly ahead of last year," Fox said. "We anticipate a similar 10 to 20 per cent increase in production in Manitoba in 2013. It's not dying down."
Manitoba's oil production is restricted to the southwest corner of the province along the northeastern flank of the Williston Basin that extends into Saskatchewan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
Although geographic coverage is small in Manitoba compared with those jurisdictions, the growth in Manitoba's oil production since 2005 has been far greater than the conventional oil production in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Compared to a 257 per cent increase in Manitoba since 2005, Alberta's conventional oil production has increased by just nine per cent in that time period (that doesn't include huge production increases in the oilsands). In Saskatchewan, oil production was up about 42.5 per cent during that period.
Both those provinces outstrip Manitoba in sheer volume of production -- Alberta pumps eight times more oil than Manitoba (not including oilsands) and Saskatchewan's production is four times greater -- but Manitoba's industry has taken off during the past several years.
The introduction of horizontal drilling and fracturing has been a boon here. Virtually all oil wells in Manitoba now use "fracking" -- the technique of shooting water then "fracking" a sand mixture deep into the shale rock to keep the cracks open to extract the oil.
The tiny oilpatch in Manitoba has caught the eye of industry observers.
Last year, the Fraser Institute's global petroleum survey ranked Manitoba as the best place in Canada for oil and gas investment and fifth-best in the world behind Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and North Dakota. The Netherlands, New Mexico, Kansas, Denmark and West Virginia rounded out the Fraser Institute's Top 10.
It was ranked just behind Saskatchewan the year before.
"The Prairies offer the clearest, most consistent, and most competitive policies for oil and gas investment in Canada," said Gerry Angevine, co-author of the survey. Fox said industry recognition is a credit to the petroleum branch's willingness to work with industry and a fiscal regime that is competitive with Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicts Canadian crude-oil production will more than double to 6.7 million barrels per day by 2030 from 3.2 million barrels per day in 2012. That includes oilsands production of 5.2 million barrels per day by 2030, up from 1.8 million barrels per day in 2012.
CAPP forecasts Manitoba's production to peak this year and remain at 50,000 barrels per day for the next three years, but start dropping off at a low single-digit rate for the next 15 years.
Fox agreed that during the medium term, production will level out, then begin to decline as CAPP forecasts.
But he believes 2013 will mark another production record in Manitoba.