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A Second Wind for the North Slope?

A Second Wind for the North Slope? thumbnail

Following an executive order from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is in the process of generating updated assessments of the oil and gas resources on Alaska’s North Slope in what could be the precursor to an exploration and development boom on federal lands that have mostly been off-limits to the industry.

The May 31 executive order has renewed a sense of hope for opening currently off-limit areas of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPRA), and opening the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which has been tightly closed to the industry since the 1980s, to exploration.

As older oilfields such as Prudhoe Bay, the Kuparuk River and the Alpine have long since reached their production peaks, the state of Alaska has been anxiously watching the steady decline of oil through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) over the last three decades – peaking in 1988 at 2.1 million barrels of oil per day to today’s roughly 500,000 barrels.

While it has long been speculated that off-limit areas in NPRA and the 1002 Area in ANWR have the potential for major discoveries of hundreds of millions or billions of barrels of oil, decades of legislation and land management policies have kept them closed to the industry to varying degrees, said David Houseknecht, USGS senior research geologist who is overseeing the North Slope assessments, to Rigzone.

Yet recent, headline-making discoveries on the North Slope by Armstrong Oil & Gas, Inc., ConocoPhillips Alaska and Caelus Energy Alaska have sparked excitement in the Last Frontier State. All lie within a major fairway stretching from the Colville River Delta to the western coast of Smith Bay. If areas that are currently off-limits to leasing near Teshekpuk Lake in NPRA open up, that could be the catalyst to the next energy boom in Alaska, Houseknecht said.

“These recent discoveries have been in stratigraphic traps primarily in the Nanushuk and Torok formations,” he said, explaining that 3-D seismic is essential for identifying the subtle plays. As the USGS works to provide updated resource assessments of NPRA, Houseknecht is in the process of acquiring 3-D seismic data to paint a more accurate picture of the area. He also is working to reprocess existing 2-D seismic data taken in ANWR in the mid ‘80s, re-examine the limited well data gathered near ANWR and conduct field work this summer. He anticipates that assessments will be completed within the next couple of years.

At this point, it is unclear whether the DOI will wait for the updated assessments or move forward with a fast-track lease sale in NPRA.

The most current assessments of NPRA and ANWR date back to 2010 and 1998, respectively, with the ANWR assessment severely lacking information to produce even remotely accurate estimates of its resources.

“We should be able to know the resource opportunities in this part of the world, and we have not been able to explore what’s in the ground. We can’t provide that information,” said Andy Mack, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, to Rigzone. “We need to use our energy resources to advance the country’s interest, and I think Alaska is an excellent place to do that because of the amount of energy in these areas. We have safely explored and produced on the North Slope in the past without any harm to the environment, and that was a remarkable feat. I think we can do that again.”

With a Republican-controlled House and Senate and a president whose no-holds-barred approach to the industry has unleashed a wave of optimism among operators, many believe that Alaska can brightly shine on the industry’s maps once again.

“After the last administration spent eight years systematically closing off access to the Arctic, this executive order puts us back on track to explore and ultimately produce prolific resources in that region,” said U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in a press release. “This secretarial order is exactly the type of announcement that so many Alaskans have been asking for: a smart, timely step to restore access to our lands, throughput to our Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and growth to our economy under reasonable regulations that do not sacrifice environmental protections.”

Earlier this year, Murkowski introduced a bill to the House and the Senate calling for the opening of ANRW to exploration.

The executive order, intended to jump start Alaskan energy production, including areas along the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), calls for the “lawful review and development of a revised Integrated Activity Plan for the NPR-A that strikes an appropriate statutory balance of promoting development while protecting surface resources” and “efficiently and effectively maximizing the tracts offered for sale during the next NPR-A lease sale,” which has not yet been announced.

North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Bower, Jr., an Inupiat whaling captain, supported the executive order stating publicly that his residents “recognize the importance of oil and gas to our local economy” and that he believes the industry will work responsibly by “protecting our wildlife and our subsistence way of life.”

NPRA, the largest block of federally managed land in the country, is reported to contain approximately 895 million barrels of economically recoverable oil and 52.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. However, in 2013, the Obama administration made 11 million of NPRA’s 22.8 million acres unavailable for leasing, potentially precluding development of up to 350 million barrels of oil and 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the DOI.

The 1002 Area of ANWR, a 1.5-million acre coastal plain in the 19-million acre refuge, is the largest, unexplored, potentially productive geologic onshore basin in the United States. ANWR was set aside by Congress in 1980 for its potential for oil and gas development, and for the most part has remained untouched by industry.

“The whole state is focused on opening as much of the federal land as possible that is currently off limits because it is desperate to get more oil in the pipeline,” Houseknecht said. “If a lease sale in NPRA were held tomorrow, a lot of companies currently on the North Slope and companies that haven’t explored the Slope in the last couple of decades, I pretty much would guarantee would show up in force to participate.”


16 Comments on "A Second Wind for the North Slope?"

  1. Dredd on Wed, 23rd Aug 2017 11:28 am 

    “the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)”

    Uh oh … another oil invasion in the works (Secret Afghanistan Underground – 3).

    Look out Sarah Palin …

  2. bobinget on Wed, 23rd Aug 2017 3:10 pm 

    IMO there’s a ‘second wind’ for hundreds of older, once high producing vertical wells.
    Years ago reading, ‘a high percentage of most oil is not recoverable’. Realizing, when I read this doctrine, that thinking was already years old.

    When so many once good wells were abandoned 3D look-down, super computers, steerable drill-pipe, multi fraccing were in fact ‘pipe dreams’.

    So much has been learned from shale, At day’s end
    we may someday be fraccing for life sustaining irrigation water.

  3. Apneaman on Thu, 24th Aug 2017 2:52 pm 

    Russian tanker sails through Arctic without icebreaker for first time

    Climate change has thawed Arctic enough for $300m gas tanker to travel at record speed through northern sea route

    AGW consequences give a little bump to the Cancer.

  4. Anonymous on Fri, 25th Aug 2017 11:40 pm 


    You are an environmentalist, not a peak oil/gas type. You’re not concerned that we are running out and will have nothing to burn. You are concerned we WON’T run out and will destroy the planet instead. If we were about to peak, than you could rest a little easier on the carbon front (knowing rates of burning would be headed down, not up.)

  5. Makati1 on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 1:15 am 

    Anon, Ap is not alone. I too hope the petroleum/FF industry goes down before we are all toast. Today would be just fine. Where is the first domino? I want to push it.

  6. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 4:23 am 

    “Anon, Ap is not alone. I too hope the petroleum/FF industry goes down before we are all toast. Today would be just fine. Where is the first domino? I want to push it.”
    Yea, well, that is because you don’t give a shit about billions that will die if the FF industry goes down. Yea, and I agree the burning of carbon will get us too.

    It is not like we get out of jail free on this one. There is not a “not being toast” if we can lynch the FF industry. The whining, blaming, and complaining with personal solutions of lynching others and suicide recommendations for those in denial solve none of this. The way you solve this is collective responsibility. If that cannot be achieved then it is personal responsibility from acceptance and acknowledgement of the doom of it all. You prep and you try to help other get a grip on the dangers ahead through acceptance and prep.

    We have some positives for a quantifiable hopium. That hopium is maybe a decade or maybe another partial decade but looking out like further it does not look good. These hopes are primarily the advent of viable renewable energy technology to supplement some of us. That some of us is mainly the rich and already affluent. I will not be a forecast idiot and claim this or that in 20-30 years like the fake greens do. What I am saying is it looks bad going forward especially a decade or more hence. Whining, moaning, and belly aching about the way things are will not solve any problems. I am not saying don’t whine because it is human nature. It is of a lower human nature but it is still the way we are. What I am saying don’t think we can whine and walk away from what we have done.

    It is friggen over in the respect to our existential species responsibility for the death of a planetary ecosystem of life as we know it. It is called an evolutionary dead end of a “keystone” “hyper” species from “techno optimistic” growth and development. Unfortunately this evolutionary dead end is an extinction event for many other species. It could be a runaway warming event that kills all. Who the frig knows where this will go. It is as simple as that and as complex as that. Even at that point of claiming we humans are this horrible thing it must be clarified that this is natures reflection not ours. We are not exceptional like we want to think. Nature is exceptional.

    Techno optimism might buy us a few more years but it can’t last in a finite world and there is no moving to another planet. I respect techno optimism because it might give me a few more years as an extension. This is like being on death row here in the screwed up American judicial system hell. It may be an extension but it is not a solution.

    Doom may be years ahead so if you have a good life now live it and give thanks. Remember also that a significant amount of people are in abject suffering with nothing but more to look forward to. That situation will only get worse because we can’t control our procreation nor our consumption. This is an existential trap that is a macro catch 22 without good solutions. We can take draconian actions. We can play a god with our fellow men but we can’t save everyone on this limping sinking ship called modern man. At best we could eliminate all but 500MIL and maybe find a stability in a destroyed planetary system. Who here would be willing to do that? Who here could pull the trigger on 6.5BIL? How about that catch 22 solution.

  7. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 4:41 am 

    HURRICANE HARVEY Interactive Map

    How about that reverse hockey stick. This is going to be a massive rain event with far reaching repercussions. It is also a wind and surge event. This is going to change the dynamics of things especially in the US. Are we going to bury the hatchet at the top and come together in common cause? Will this do it? Maybe that is asking too much of a broken country politically. Will we point fingers? The anti-Americans will love this. I bet some are already passing the popcorn with greasy salty hands and faces. It is likely oil and finished product prices will spike significantly. The cost of this is going to be enormous. Maybe I am overreacting but flooding on this scale over this time period and in the vicinity to this amount of people is a no brainer of catastrophe.

  8. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 4:47 am 

    Hurricane Harvey Discussion Number 24
    NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
    400 AM CDT Sat Aug 26 2017

    Harvey’s eye has moved inland gradually during the past few hours,
    and maximum winds have decreased significantly since landfall.
    Radar velocity data from the Corpus Christi NOAA Doppler radar are
    showing winds as high as 90 kt at an elevation of 3000-3500 ft in
    the northwestern eyewall. The advisory intensity is therefore set
    at 85 kt, which could still be a little generous. Continued
    weakening is expected as Harvey’s eye continues to move inland, and
    maximum sustained winds are likely to fall below hurricane force
    later today. A more gradual weakening trend is anticipated after
    that point, and Harvey is forecast to maintain tropical storm
    strength at least through day 4, especially if part of its
    circulation remains over water. The updated NHC intensity forecast
    continues a similar weakening trend noted in previous advisories and
    is closest to the HFIP Corrected Consensus Approach (HCCA).

    The initial motion has continued to decrease, and it is now
    estimated to be 325/5 kt. As the steering currents around Harvey
    continue to collapse, the cyclone is expected to stall or meander
    inland over southeastern Texas. Only a few models show any sort of
    definitive northeastward motion at the end of the forecast period,
    and for the most part, the most reliable models keep Harvey over
    southeastern Texas through day 5. The NHC track forecast depicts
    Harvey taking a slow counterclockwise loop just inland from the
    coast. This track is expected to exacerbate the potential for
    catastrophic flooding from heavy rainfall at least through the
    middle of next week.

  9. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 4:57 am 

    Amazing view of the clashing of dry and wet air masses.

    Water Vapor NOAA geostationary (GOES) satellites

  10. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 5:07 am 

    “Harvey Hits U.S. Oil Hub With Massive Winds, Torrential Rain”

    “The storm is striking a region that has a cluster of refineries that process 5 million barrels of oil a day. By Friday, about 1 million barrels a day of crude and condensate refining capacity in Texas had been shut down by companies including Valero Energy Corp., according to company statements, government releases and people familiar with the situation. About 22 percent of Gulf of Mexico oil production had also been shuttered, along with the port of Corpus Christi, which ships the largest amount of U.S. crude overseas.”

    “Property analytics firm CoreLogic estimated Thursday that 232,721 homes along the Texas coast with a reconstruction cost value of about $39.6 billion were at risk of storm surge damage.”

  11. Makati1 on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 5:37 am 

    Davy, again you see a world that does not exist. “Yea, well, that is because you don’t give a shit about billions that will die if the FF industry goes down” Contrary to your idea, most of those ‘billions’ will be in the 1st world, so yes, I do not care about the greedy if they suffer. Bring it on. The rest of the world will manage, as always.

    I doubt the death toll will be even close to those numbers. Millions maybe, but then, 60+ million people die every year from all causes already. Over 1 million per week. Lack of food is caused more by the lack of money than that there is no food to eat.

    Americans would not know that as they are fed by the government (Food stamps). Wait until that ends, and it will. THEN you will see massive starvation in America. Not to mention riots like never before. The US depends on corporate farming and chemicals to exist. Those will end when FFs get too expensive or impossible to provide.

    Or they will take you to war, and American cities (and people) will get destroyed. Which will it be? Looks a lot like nukes as the insanity in DC increases.

    I stopped reading at that point in your bloviating sermon. I knew the rest would be hopey, feely unicorn hugging mixed with Davy’s bullshit view of the world.

  12. Cloggie on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 5:46 am 

    Harvey, probably a little “overblown”. As per usual, with salivating media around, anxious for sensational stories.

  13. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 6:09 am 

    “Contrary to your idea, most of those ‘billions’ will be in the 1st world, so yes, I do not care about the greedy if they suffer. Bring it on. The rest of the world will manage, as always.”
    All I can do is laugh at that one. You are off your rocker makat. How many billions are in the 1st world? I think there is like around 1BIL or so depending on where you draw the line because many are now 3rd world. So you are saying those in the east living western lifestyles are exempt? You are saying the west will disappear and the Golden Asian Age will be initiated. An Asian Age of going on 4BIL with a total of a 6BIL people counting all the others. All will be good over in makatiland right makat.

    “I stopped reading at that point in your bloviating sermon. I knew the rest would be hopey, feely unicorn hugging mixed with Davy’s bullshit view of the world.”
    More laughing from me. Makat, I an am a doomer. A balanced doomer. If I did not acknowledge your daily regurgitations of anti-American spew then how would I be a doomer? I would be a makat that preaches doom for others not himself. You are sick old man and too bad nowhere to go in a 3rd world country without health care. Although you can’t get any meds for what you suffer.

  14. Davy on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 6:59 am 

    “Harvey, probably a little “overblown”. As per usual, with salivating media around, anxious for sensational stories.”

    This could be the worst storm to hit the US in overall effect. That is my opinion primarily because it is stalling and where it is. Here is some great coverage of the storm below from the weather channel. I can’t tell how current it is but there are some great maps. The key to the devastation is where this monster storm stalls. If it can continue to suck in gulf moisture this is going to be a killer because of widespread flooding.

  15. Apneaman on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 12:46 pm 

    Poor clog, the Hurricane coverage is a double whammy for you eh? 1 it’s AGW Jacked. 2 it fits with your all too obvious pattern of throwing a hissy fit when any big story comes along that temporarily knocks your meaningless monkey politics off the front page. Talk about blowing things out of proportion, Trump could spill gravy on his tie at dinner and you will go on a rant on how it’s yet another Illuminati plot for world domination.

    Davy is right and you are wrong as per usual. In this case the wide spread media coverage likely saved lives and property. There will be blame and bitching no matter what, but Kudos to the Texas governor and his people for getting ahead of it and putting in full effort to protect the Texas cancer citizens.

    Not time to Let Our Guard Down With Harvey; Rainstorm Expected to Last 5-9 More Days

    Last year the people of New Orleans wished they had half the pre storm coverage and prep as Texas did on this one.

    No-name storm dumped three times as much rain in Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina
    By Jason Samenow August 19, 2016

    “The Louisiana flood has taken at least 13 lives and damaged 40,000 homes. This multibillion-dollar disaster is a devastating example of the damage water can do and proves that a hurricane is not required to leave behind a flooding catastrophe”

    “This unnamed storm produced three times as much rain in Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina.

    The multi-day rainfall totals, shown both in the map above and in the list below, are stunning — many in the 20-30 inch range.”

    “What makes the rainfall output most remarkable is that it didn’t originate from tropical storm or depression, but just a weak area of low pressure that tapped into a unusually deep tropical moisture stream — fueled by warmer-than-normal ocean waters.”

    Three times as much rain from the AGW Jacked hot ocean and the rain storm did not even have a name, because they had their thumbs up their asses. NOT, your granddaddy’s climate or weather.

  16. onlooker on Sat, 26th Aug 2017 1:16 pm
    If a storm hits the region in the right spot, “it’s going to kill America’s economy,” said Pete Olson, a Republican Congress member from Sugar Land, a Houston suburb.

    Such a storm would devastate the Houston Ship Channel, shuttering one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Flanked by 10 major refineries — including the nation’s largest — and dozens of chemical manufacturing plants, the Ship Channel is a crucial transportation route for crude oil and other key products, such as plastics and pesticides. A shutdown could lead to a spike in gasoline prices and many consumer goods — everything from car tires to cellphone parts to prescription pills.

    “It would affect supply chains across the U.S., it would probably affect factories and plants in every major metropolitan area in the U.S.,” said Patrick Jankowski, vice president for research at the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston’s chamber of commerce.

    After decades of inaction, they hoped that a plan to build a storm surge protection system could finally move forward.
    But none have gotten much past the talking stage.

    Remember Houston does not have levee system

    So is the worst case scenario now happening?

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