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Innovation Keeps Prudhoe Bay Going Beyond Expectations

If Rip van Winkle had been an oil worker who dozed off at Prudhoe Bay in June 1977 and awoke the same day 30 years later, he would be flabbergasted.

When Rip and his buddies turned the valve three decades ago, on June 20, 1977, starting the first flow of oil into the newly completed Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, most Alaskans and even many oil workers were of the opinion that the North Slope oil fields would be depleted and shut down by now.

Instead, our Rip van Winkle would find the North Slope a beehive of activity with record levels of people working — in fact, 6,000 during last winter’s busy construction season. There are now new wells being drilled, projects being launched to test a several-billion-barrel heavy oil resource and a quarter-billion-dollar reconstruction of the oil field pipeline system underway, this last aimed at extending the life of the North Slope industry for 30, 40 or even 50 more years.

Unbelievable. Another shocker for Rip, however, would be this:

In 1977 it was thought the Slope would produce about 10 billion barrels of oil before the lights were switched off. But production to date has actually been 15 billion barrels so far. The oil fields are reckoned to still have a long life ahead of them. Just one of the producing companies, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., estimates its remaining known crude oil resource at 5 billion barrels.

Alaska Journal of Commerce

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