Alaska oil and gas operators active on the North Slope face a long-term, existential threat to infrastructure for which there is no easy solution – thawing permafrost. Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have been taking deep temperature measurements in permafrost soils underlying the producing oilfields on the slope and along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Since 1978, when measurements began, temperatures at the 65-foot depth have shown steady warming, with the steepest increase at 6 F in the oil fields at the northern end of TAPS. In 1978 the permafrost at 65 feet near Prudhoe Bay was 16.3 F. By 2018 it had warmed to 22.6 F. The warming hasn’t yet affected oil and gas production on the slope, and companies have strategies in place to deal with varying seasonal temperatures, including underground refrigeration units to keep the soil stable. But the real impact may come from the effects of warming on surrounding infrastructure, including the critical Dalton Highway, the gravel road connecting the oil fields to interior Alaska. From permafrost to slush A new report by the university’s Geophysical Institute projects warming trends forward for the first time. The report forecasts that the melt point would be reached… continue reading
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Source: CTRM Center