The annual winter exploratory drilling season will open soon on Alaska's North Slope with Arco Alaska Inc. and BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. once again the main players. The search will be played out against a backdrop of sharply declining production. During the first eight months of this year, production dropped 12.9%, or by an amount substantially greater than the daily production of the Lower 48's largest field. WILDCAT OFF ANWR The wildcat that could play for the largest stakes is a directional 9,000 ft vertical hole Arco plans to drill as operator for itself and Phillips Petroleum Co. to test...

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