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New University of Alaska Research Demonstrates Potential for North Slope Heavy Oil Production

Oct 7, 2022

Joint public-private partnership is yielding promising results
New research conducted by the Institute for Northern Engineering’s Petroleum Development Lab at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, demonstrates the potential for commercial production of the estimated billions of barrels of heavy oil under existing oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope. UAF engineers and Hilcorp Alaska have successfully deployed an enhanced oil recovery method using a process known as polymer flooding to pull the thick, viscous oil to the surface at Milne Point. The latest results of the research were presented at a press conference at UAF this afternoon.

The process injects a mixture of polymer and seawater into the reservoir, substantially increasing the production of heavy oil compared to traditional water injection. The research demonstrates the technology works on the North Slope, and the results are promising. UAF researchers are encouraged by the progress they are making and believe higher production can be achieved over the next decade.

The Dunleavy Administration directed $5 million for the next phase of the research project in its FY23 state budget after the U.S. Department of Energy eliminated funding for all heavy oil research earlier this year.

“The next state funded phase of the heavy oil project underway at UAF could unlock the tens of billions of barrels of heavy oil lying underneath Alaska’s North Slope. That is a resource too large to ignore,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “If we have a breakthrough, heavy oil will extend the lifespan of the oil pipeline and provide substantial revenue for the state, and the Alaska Permanent Fund. University of Alaska research, whether it is heavy oil, renewable energy or drone technology, can propel Alaska’s economy into the future.”

“This project demonstrates how UAF is contributing to developing Alaska’s economy, while also educating and training the workforce,” said UAF Chancellor Dan White.

“The University of Alaska today showed another example of Governor Dunleavy’s vision for the state’s flagship research center powering the resource development potential of the Last Frontier,” said acting DNR Commissioner Akis Gialopsos “We have the geology, the North Slope infrastructure, and the skilled workers to make Alaska a premier resource locale for subjects like heavy oil, methane hydrates, as well as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).”

Click here for a copy of Petroleum Development Lab’s presentation.