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Alaska Senators Introduce Legislation Permitting Advanced Directional Drilling for ANWR

US Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced legislation that would allow the use of advanced directional drilling to tap the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) coastal plain. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, would allow access to the coastal plain’s oil and natural gas resources through the use of underground directional drilling from state-owned lands to the west of the refuge and state waters from the north.

The legislation seeks to find a compromise with those concerned with preserving the 1.5 million acre coastal plain while still tapping into ANWR to increase domestic production of oil and gas.

Directional drilling would allow energy companies to reach oil deposits up to eight miles away with no surface occupancy in the refuge. The bill is based on the compromise reached in the Wyoming Range Legacy Act of 2007, which permitted resources to be accessed underground through directional drilling in a new wilderness area as long as there was no permanent surface impacts.

Advances in directional drilling now permit multilateral drilling, where multiple offshoots of a single wellbore radiate in different directions and can contact resources at different depths, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). Development of this technology is recent and rapid, and promotes the use of one site instead of many sites.

To be able to accommodate drilling away from the vertical plane, operators are using coiled tubing technology. Coiled tubing is a continuous-length hollow steel cylinder of varying widths. Stored on a reel, coiled tubing is flexible, contains no joints, and can be uncoiled or coiled repeatedly as needed.

Recent advancements in slimhole drilling have also significantly reduced cuttings form drill bits as they bite through rock. As the name suggests, the slimhole drill is smaller and displaces less rock. For example, the API notes, a slimhole drilled to more than 2 1/2 miles in depth and ending with a 4 1/8-inch-diameter bottomhole produces one-third fewer cuttings than a standard well at the same depth.

Both coiled tubing and slimhole drilling enable less disruptive, quieter drilling operations, minimizing the noise for wildlife or humans near the well site. The smaller size of coiled-tube drilling also cuts fuel use and reduces gas emissions when compared with traditional drilling.

Directional drilling provides a great opportunity to tap the Arctic refuge’s vast oil and gas potential with minimal disruption to the wild lands and the wildlife which depend on them. I have been a long-time supporter of this cutting-edge technology.

—Senator Mark Begich

Revenue raised from development of ANWR would be distributed evenly between the state and federal treasuries. The bill also includes $15 million of mitigation impact aid to North Slope residents. A portion of the federal proceeds would also be dedicated to renewable energy, energy efficiency and wildlife habitat and mitigation programs nationwide.

The Department of the Interior estimates that more than 1 billion barrels of oil and 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available within eight miles of the western edge of ANWR, and are reachable through directional drilling. While this represents only 10% of the oil and about 80% of the gas estimated to be contained beneath the refuge, future advances in directional drilling technology could allow companies to extract an ever increasing amount of the area’s resources.

The US Geological Survey estimates the ANWR coastal plain contains between 10 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil, and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas&mash;making it the largest undeveloped onshore conventional oil deposit in North America.

In May 2008, the Energy Information Administration, in response to a request from Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, concluded that in the mean case, opening of the full Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR 1002 Area) to oil and natural gas development would result in additional oil production of a peak 780,000 barrels per day in 2027. That would result in trimming $0.75 (in 2006 dollars) off the projected cost of a barrel of oil, according to the EIA. (Earlier post.)

Comments

ejj

I am all for a manhattan project to explore & develop renewable energy, but I am also all for this kind of compromise project. Brazil & China are going to drill offshore & ignore whatever enviro-guilt trips people can throw at them. We need this kind of project for energy independence for America, for jobs and new tax revenue. This project will involve drilling without crews stepping one foot in the refuge. Mark Begich needs to proclaim his support from the rooftops to get this passed.

ToppaTom

Fat chance.
This whole idea reeks of common sense which, IMO has no chance against emotion right now.
The emotion surrounding ANWR is not tied to reality.
Remember that the only reason that people familiar with the area call it "ANWR" is that the name "bad lands" was already taken.

ai_vin

I'm of two minds on this idea: First, I believe ANWR shouldn't be drilled on the simple principle that going after every last drop of oil in the world is just a continuance of the status quo that only makes rich, powerful men even richer by keeping us hooked on our addiction.

Second, I don't see as it would do much real harm nor have much benefit. In 2007, the United States consumed 20.68m bbls of petroleum products per day. In the mean ANWR oil resource case, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR reaches only 780,000 barrels per day and then declines to 710,000 barrels per day in three years.

JMartin

If they can drill without stepping foot in ANWR, go for it. In my personal opinion, ANWR and the deep Gulf are going to be too costly and risky for the oil companies to develop anyway. In a few years we will be producing energy cheaper, with less up-front capital commitment and less lead time.

It is like building a nuclear plant -- everyone is in favor except the people putting up the money. They will do it if the Government funds it, or guarantees it. For the cost (with less risk), we could build more wind and solar production than ANWR will ever deliver (particularly when you include pipeline costs).

Treehugger

It is called "the path of least resistance" drill baby drill, Ms Pallin is going to have an orgasm...

Anyway the return on investement is going to be deceptive, it will take ten years to achieve a significant flow from this field and the whole thing won't make that much of a difference.

The money would be better spent paying incentive for people to buy hybrid car, and it would save muc much more oil than thsi field could yield

Sorry eji you are wrong on this again

Rikiki

I thought Obama's campaign included "reducing reliance on foreign oil". Isn't Alaska still part of the US? And, doesn't Obama need the tax revenues to fund his other programs?

>Treehugger
I would have an orgasm too, if I could just deny revenue to the Arabs. et. al.. I would feel really, really good!
Rikiki

Mannstein

Here we go again just buy a hybrid plug in or electric vehicle and all global warming will be solved.

There is only one problem, most of the electricity to charge those batteries at night is going to have to come from coal powered plants.

Check out this month's IEEE Spectrum for the gory details.

ai_vin

"In 1998, the USGS estimated that between 5.7 and 16.0 billion barrels of technically recoverable crude oil and natural gas liquids are in the coastal plain area of ANWR, with a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels, of which 7.7 billion barrels lie within the Federal portion of the ANWR 1002 Area."

In 2007, the United States consumed 20.68m bbls of petroleum products per day X 365 days = 7.548 billion barrels per year.

ToppaTom

The return on investment is the solution, not the problem.
Just tell the oil companies that it costs too much and they will bow to our superior knowledge and go away.
If they foolishly think they know more about this, just tell them the oil will come too late - in 15 to 30 years BEVs will make up most cars on the road.
Hmm, that's a bit late, let's just nationalize the oil companies and spend their money on incentives for people to buy hybrid cars, something has to be done to get hybrids above 6% of the market.


drivin98

Of course the oil companies have superior knowledge about our energy future. Just like banks have superior knowledge about ...ok, maybe that's not the best analogy.

ai_vin

@Drivin98

Oh please! You're missing the point, the real problem is not the competency of the banks or oil companies - it's their motives.

Neither has any interest in OUR future, they only care about their own.

ToppaTom

Oil companies ARE evil.
ENCOURAGE them to drill ANWAR.
They will get no return on their investment because the drilling is too expensive.
All their money will go to workers and machine manufacturers.
They will bring the first gallon to market when there is no longer a market for oil.
"Big oil" will go broke before they bring a drop of oil to market.
The joke will be on them.
Greenies unite - Drill - Drill - DRILL.

ai_vin

You know I HAVE heard worst lines of reasoning from the dark side, and unfortunately I've seen too many people fall for it.

SJC

ANWR is a bargaining chip for the right wing. They bring it out every time that they want to put pressure on the environmentalists. Give us this, we give you that is the game. They know there is not much there, it will take too long and cost too much, but it gives them leverage.

ejj

SJC - I couldn't disagree more. The oil companies spend a fortune to drill up there in that brutally frigid environment...the costs to get drilling equipment to and from that area are astronomical. What kind of leverage would they have if they spend a mint drilling for something they knew wasn't there? I think it's quite the opposite ---- I suspect there is a hell of a lot more there than they are letting on...keeps the players to a minimum, with bigger payoffs when they hit the pay zones.

wintermane2000

What anwr can do and will do eventualy is fill about 5% of our need for 30-40 years. Thats what they want it for and realy its not going to kill the place to get it. Mess up a small bit of it yes but that wont do much to anything up there and replacing that much oil with other things will do alot more harm elsewhere AND there.

Also again it will happen what better time to do it right them now?

SJC

The oil companies have 68 million acres under lease in the U.S. They can drill for more oil at lower cost on that frozen land. They do not want to spend so much drilling so far up north. It is just a bargaining point and that is the opinion of people more in the know than anyone here.

ejj

"It is just a bargaining point and that is the opinion of people more in the know than anyone here."...okay, then provide us quotes and links to those quotes to verify that assertion.

Seems to me it's one big supply vs. demand, cost vs. benefits game. If there was so much easy oil under the 68 million acres, would we be importing any SJC? We know the demand is there - what we don't know exactly is the supply & costs vs. benefits for the oil companies for drilling for what's left under the 68 million acres. I say let them drill in and under ANWR if they think there is a lot there that is easy to get - we need the jobs, tax revenue & energy independence.

SJC

Go look for them yourself...do not be so lazy, you might just learn something new in the process.

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