New discoveries in Alaska help to boost US reserves

Nov 05, 2008 01:00 AM

The US boosted its proved oil reserves last year for the first time since 2007, in part thanks to new discoveries in Alaska.
The US Energy Information Administration says domestic proved oil reserves grew by 2 % while natural gas reserves increased 13 % over the previous year. It's the largest one-year increase since this Energy Department agency began tracking proved reserves in 1977. The US added 2 bn barrels of proved oil reserves, and of that, Alaska contributed 284 mm barrels, just ahead of Texas, which added 251 mm barrels.

Most new reserves are logged from satellite connected to existing fields, not new discoveries. Of the 66 mm barrels of proved reserves, 45 mm came from Alaska.
The EIA uses two steps to calculate proved reserves. First, it combines new discoveries with the existing reserve base. Then, it subtracts any resources produced during the year. Discoveries are from new fields, new reservoirs in old fields and satellites. The agency breaks out figures by state, but it does not provide details behind the state-by-state figures, saying this is proprietary information. This makes it difficult to determine what new fields companies would have booked in Alaska last year.

For example, Pioneer Natural Resources spent much of 2007 completing an offshore island to support development in the Arctic Ocean, a project called Oooguruk. Production didn't start until this past summer. The company, which is based in Irving, Texas, has said it expects those wells to produce as much as 90 mm barrels of oil over the 25 to 30 year life of the field.
Unlike the nation's oil reserves, domestic natural gas reserves have been on the rise every year since 1998, and are now nearly 50 % higher than they were in 1993, the lowest year on record.

The EIA reports Alaska posting a net-gain in proved natural gas reserves, from 10.2 tcf to 11.9 tcf. But that sum features just some of the 35 tcf of proved natural gas reserves on the North Slope.
Without a pipeline to ship the gas out of state, those reserves get used for field operations. Last summer the Legislature awarded TransCanada an exclusive license to pursue a federal permit to build a 1,710-mile pipeline.

Source / The Associated Press
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