Truth About ANWR   5 comments

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a huge swath of the eastern Alaska Arctic Coast, stretching from the Dalton Highway east to the Canadian border and from the Arctic Ocean south to the southern foothills of the Brooks Range. It’s an amazing place – austere and mysterious, largely empty and great for photography and wildlife viewing.

Geologists overwhelmingly agree that the Arctic Coastal Plain has the nation’s best geologic prospects for major new onshore oil discoveries. According to the Department of Interior’s 1987 resource evaluation of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain, there is a 95% chance that a ‘super field’ with 500 million barrels would be discovered. DOI also estimates that there exists a mean of 3.5 billion barrels, and a 5% chance that a large Prudhoe Bay type discovery would be made.

The high potential for significant discoveries of oil and gas in ANWR has long been recognized. Early 20th century explorers of the region found oil seeps and oil-stained sands. Since ANWR was established in 1960, exploration in the region has been restricted to surface geological investigations, aeromagnetic surveys, and two winter seismic surveys (1983-84 and 1984-85). No exploratory drilling has been accomplished in the area except for one well commenced in the winter of 1984-85 on Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) lands southeast of Kaktovik on the Coastal Plain.

Although little oil and gas exploration has taken place in ANWR, the Coastal Plain is believed to have economically recoverable oil resources. The Coastal Plain lies between two known major discovery areas. About 65 miles to the west of the Coastal Plain, the Prudhoe Bay, Lisburne, Endicott, Milne Point, and Kuparuk oil fields are currently in production. Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil a day are produced from these fields, representing 25% of our domestic production. The TransAlaska Pipeline has transported about 16 billion barrels of oil in its 37-year history. To the east of the Coastal Plain, major discoveries have been made in Canada, near the Mackenzie River Delta and in the Beaufort Sea.

In 1980, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the Coastal Plain could contain up to 17 billion barrels of oil and 34 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

After several years of surface geological investigations, aeromagnetic surveys, and two winter seismic surveys, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), in its April 1987 report on the oil and gas potential of the Coastal Plain, estimated that there are billions of barrels of oil to be discovered in the area. DOI estimates that “in-place resources” range from 4.8 billion to 29.4 billion barrels of oil. Recoverable oil estimates ranges from 600 million to 9.2 billion barrels. They also reported identifying 26 separate oil and gas prospects in the Coastal Plain that could each contain “super giant” fields (500 million barrels or more).

The geologic indicators are very favorable for the presence of significant oil and gas resources in ANWR, but the limited data means that there is a high level of uncertainty about how much oil and gas may be present. Consequently, current estimates represent the best scientific guesses. However, most geologists agree that the potential is on the order of billions of barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic feet of recoverable gas. These resources may rival or exceed the initial reserves at Prudhoe Bay. The validity of these estimates can be proved only by drilling exploratory wells. Authorization for exploration must be given by Congress and the President.

ANWR is 19 million acres in size. The area of proposed development is 2000 acres. That’s the size of the red patch on the map. For perspective, that is only 100 times the size of the cabin site my husband and I are developing. It is one-third the area occupied by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Both my home and the cabin site are in the borough and we travel 50 road miles between the two. Got it? Perspective is an amazing thing.

ANWR is very important for Alaska and the nation. Prudhoe Bay, which accounts for over half of North Slope production and 25% of domestic oil reserves, began its decline in 1988, and no new on-shore fields have yet been discovered with the potential to compensate for that decline.

We need ANWR.

Tell your congressional delegation.

5 responses to “Truth About ANWR

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  1. I betcha the drilling rigs would have less environmental impact than the horrific giant bird killing windmills littering the Midwest.

    Drill, baby, drill!


    • Yeah, we have Eva Creek in the Healy area slicing and dicing birds too. A 50-megawatt wind farm that only provides about 12-megawatts, but cost as much as the 50-megawatt clean-coal plant that will provide us with 49 megawatts of electricity … if we ever get permitting to fire it up. The irony is that Eva Creek is less than 20 miles from Usibelli Coal Mine, which produces such ultra-low sulfur coal that our electric cooperative is having trouble passing the threshhold for sulfur for the power plant. The EPA keeps insisting that they need more sulfur.

      You cannot make this stuff up!


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