Alaska's crude oil production has declined from 1.8 million bpd in 1991 to 0.5 bpd in 2014 – a figure which is expected to continue to decline through 2040. Almost 75% of Alaska's crude oil production between 1990 and 2012 was from the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River fields in the central North Slope, which respectively produced 4.9 billion and 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil over the above period.
Alongside pipeline economics, variable ice conditions and limited time without ice coverage make Alaska a challenging environment which crude oil production is sensitive to. However, recent conditional approval granted to Royal Dutch Shell to begin exploratory drilling in the Burger Prospect of the Chukchi Sea may help to offset future declines in crude oil production from other state and federally managed resources in the region.
Where the oil and gas is found
Current Alaska oil and natural gas activity is concentrated in three main regions: North Slope Offshore, Central North Slope, and South Alaska. The North Slope Offshore encompasses the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Except for the Northstar field, which spans both federal and state waters in the Beaufort Sea, most of the production, including the Nikaitchuq field and other smaller producing fields, is located in state waters in the Beaufort Sea. The Central North Slope includes the Alpine, Kuparuk River, Milne Point, Prudhoe Bay, and West Sak fields, as well as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), there are 212 oil and natural gas leases in the NPR-A but no producing units. Oil and natural gas exploration and production are not allowed in the ANWR. In South Alaska, ongoing oil and natural gas activity is located in the Cook Inlet area.
Chukchi Sea potential
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that the Chukchi Sea, off the northwest coast of Alaska, contains 2 to 40 billion bbls of unproved technically recoverable crude oil resources and 10 to 210 trillion ft3 of unproved technically recoverable natural gas resources – including oil and natural gas that can be produced based on current technology, industry practice, and geologic knowledge. More than half of Alaska's unproved technically recoverable crude oil resources are in the North Slope Offshore.
Adapted from a press release by David Bizley