USGS releases first ANS shale oil, gas resource estimates

The US Geological Survey estimated that Alaska’s North Slope contains up to 2 billion bbl of crude oil and 80 tcf of natural gas, which are technically recoverable from tight shale formations using currently available technology and industry practices.

Production has never been attempted from these formations, which span much of the Alaska North Slope but are largely absent from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge primarily because of economics and lack of infrastructure, the US Department of the Interior agency noted. It was the agency’s first estimate of the resource potential in ANS shales.

“Providing scientifically sound, publicly available assessments of the quantity of new, untapped oil and gas resources in frontier areas is but the first step in weighing their potential contributions to energy supplies as well as the impacts of recovering them,” said USGS Director Marcia K. McNutt. “This information can help leaders from both government and industry make good decisions for the long term, anticipate environmental issues in advance of development, and guide wise investments.”

The agency said there is a large range of uncertainty associated with these assessment numbers because of the uncertainty associated with estimation of undiscovered, continuous resources in source rocks from which no attempt has been made to produce oil or gas.

However, the recent success of shale oil and shale gas development in the Lower 48 states demonstrates the technical viability of such resources, it continued. Consequently, this new USGS assessment provides an estimate of potential resources which may be technically viable in this frontier region, it said.

The study assessed three ANS source rocks: the Triassic Shublik  formation, the lower part of the Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous Kingak shale, and the Cretaceous pebble shale unit-Hue shale. The formations are known to have generated oil and gas that migrated into conventional accumulations, including the supergiant Prudhoe Bay field, according to USGS. However, these shales also likely retain oil and gas that did not migrate, it added.

The assessment is a part of the agency’s National Oil and Gas Assessment, which periodically provides evaluations of the US oil and gas endowment, USGS said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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