Alaskan oil developers face technical challenges to exploit new plays, as output declines

As Alaska’s oil production declines, enormous attention is being paid to even the slightest hint of a find that could turn the state’s fortunes around. Much hope has been pinned on the development of the Nanushuk, a broadly-dispersed set of rocks along the Colville River that extends west into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Some companies have had success finding oil, with claims ranging from a conservative 500 million barrels to over 3 billion barrels of recoverable resources. But a recent dry hole in the Nanushuk has brought to light some of the economic and technical challenges facing those who want to tap into those potential riches. The stakes are high for Alaska. The Nanushuk discoveries have created new interest in the North Slope within industry and excitement among state leaders who have long worried about the gradual decline of the existing fields. Alaska is now producing about 500,000 b/d, one fourth of production in 1988. While enormous reservoirs are believed to exist offshore, attempts to explore there have not been successful. And while the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is also believed to hold prolific resources, political and environmental opposition makes development there problematic. High hopes and dry holes For months,… continue reading

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