Last month, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the updated energy resource assessment for the Cretaceous, Nanushuk and Torok Formations found in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), the Western Beaufort Sea and State and Native lands and waters. The reports indicate Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Resources (UTRR) of 17.6 billion barrels of oil and 52.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas.
The assessment was a collaboration of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Geological Survey (USGS), all under the Department of the Interior, along with information provided by state and industry partners.
BOEM’s assessment of the Nanushuk and Torok plays estimated a mean of 1.2 million barrels and 0.892 Tcf of UTTR oil and gas respectively. Combined with the resources found in other surrounding plays in the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf Planning Area, estimates total 8.9 billion barrels of oil and 27.7 Tcf of gas in this area were announced.
USGS assessments of the NPR-A region, covering over 22 million acres, estimated 8.7 billion barrels of oil and 25 Tcf of natural gas resources. The reassessment was prompted after several industry announcements of oil discoveries in the area.
Undiscovered resources are those that are estimated to exist based on geologic knowledge and theory, thus the assessments provide a range of potential for the new estimates of oil and gas resources. Until further wells are drilled and begin to produce, it is difficult to be certain about the resource potential. Nevertheless, sufficient data is available to confirm that the potential size of oil pools in the Nanushuk and Torok Formations is six times larger than initially thought.
"BOEM is pleased to participate in this partnership with USGS to use shared science and new technology to produce these increased estimates of oil and gas potential in northern Alaska," said Walter Cruickshank, acting director of BOEM.
Regarding the updated assessment, Secretary Zinke stated, “Thanks to the incredible work of scientists at the USGS and BOEM, we know what’s available and what our potential is. That’s important because with the scientific knowledge, industry partners are more willing to explore the area. New discoveries have changed our geologic knowledge of the area - and these assessments show that the North Slope will remain an important energy hub for decades to come in order to meet the energy needs of our nation."
The USGS and BOEM fact sheets and websites can provide additional information on the assessments.