DOE study sees high North Slope potential

US oil reserves could more than double by 2050 if commodity prices remain high and leasing restrictions ease on Alsaka's North Slope, according to a federal government study.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Jan. 29 -- US oil reserves could more than double by 2050 if commodity prices remain high and leasing restrictions ease on Alsaka's North Slope, according to a federal government study.

A detailed assessment of the North Slope by the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy says exploration and development might add 28 billion bbl of economically recoverable oil and 125 tcf of gas during 2015-50. Reserves for all of the US now are 21 billion bbl of oil and 211 tcf of gas.

The forecast assumes continued high oil and gas prices, stable fiscal policies, and access by the producing industry to all areas of the North Slope. Congress has not approved oil and gas leasing of the promising coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

During 2005-15, exploration of currently accessible areas will add about 2.9 billion bbl of oil and 12 tcf of gas, the study predicts.

Total reserves additions for the whole study period, including reserves growth in known fields, could reach 35-36 billion bbl of oil and 137 tcf of gas under the least restrictive set of assumptions, the study says.

"For this optimistic scenario, the productive life of the Alaskan North Slope would be extended well beyond 2050 and could potentially result in the need to refurbish the [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System] and add capacity to the gas pipeline," the study says. A pipeline for North Slope gas production is not yet in place.

The forecast reserves additions decline with changes of key assumptions:

-- To 29-30 billion bbl of oil and 135 tcf of gas if the ANWR coastal plain is removed from consideration.

-- To 19-20 billion bbl of oil and 85 tcf of gas if the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf also is removed.

-- To 15-16 billion bbl of oil and 65 tcf of gas if the Beaufort Sea OCS is added to the removal list.

-- To 9-10 billion bbl of oil if all those areas are removed and no gas pipeline is built.

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