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Title: Alaskan North Slope Oil & Gas Transportation Support

Abstract

North Slope oil and gas resources are a critical part of US energy supplies and their development is facing a period of new growth to meet increasing national energy needs. While this growth is taking place in areas active in development for more than 20 years, there are many increasing environmental challenges facing industry and management agencies. A majority of all exploration and development activities, pipeline maintenance and other field support activities take place in the middle of winter, when the fragile tundra surface is more stable. The window for the critical oil and gas winter operational season has been steadily decreasing over the last 25 years. The number of companies working on the North Slope is increasing. Many of these companies are smaller and working with fewer resources than the current major companies. The winter operations season starts with the tundra-travel opening, which requires 15 cm of snow on the land surface in the coastal management areas and 23 cm in the foothills management areas. All state managed areas require -5°C soil temperatures at a soil depth of 30 cm. Currently there are no methods to forecast this opening date, so field mobilization efforts are dependent on agency personnelmore » visiting field sites to measure snow and soil temperature conditions. Weeks can be easily lost in the winter operating season due to delays in field verification of tundra conditions and the resulting mobilization. After the season is open, a significant percentage of exploration, construction, and maintenance do not proceed until ice roads and pads can be built. This effort is dependent on access to lake ice and under-ice water. Ice chipping is a common ice-road construction technique used to build faster and stronger ice roads. Seasonal variability in water availability and permitting approaches are a constant constraint to industry. At the end of the winter season, projects reliant on ice-road networks are often faced with ending operations early or risk being caught on ice roads with flooded stream crossings, or unusable sections of ice road due to local melt. These challenges result in higher oil and gas field exploration and operational costs. Much of the scientific understanding to address transportation issues for oil and gas development on the North Slope exists, but has not been placed into a set of tools and data sets useful for industry and management agencies. Optimizing North Slope transportation networks during winter operation seasons is critical in managing increasing resource development and will provide a framework for environmentally-responsive development. Understanding the physical environment (such as snow, water, ice, soils) is necessary to ensure protection of fisheries and other natural resources on the sensitive tundra landscape. Solutions also have to do more than just describe current conditions, they need the ability to forecast short-term conditions. This will allow management agencies to respond to future variability in snow cover, soil temperature, and water availability more effectively. In turn, industry will then have more time to plan the significant mobilization taking place every winter season.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Geo-Watersheds Scientific LLC, Fairbanks, AK (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Geo-Watersheds Scientific LLC, Fairbanks, AK (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE)
Contributing Org.:
Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources (United States); ConocoPhillips Alaska, Inc. (United States); Bureau of Land Management (United States)
OSTI Identifier:
1350972
Report Number(s):
DE-FE0001240
DOE Contract Number:
FE0001240
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES; 02 PETROLEUM; Alaska; ice roads; water; water use; transportation; arctic; arctic transportation; tundra travel; NPRA; North Slope; lakes; winter water use, Prudhoe Bay

Citation Formats

Lilly, Michael Russell. Alaskan North Slope Oil & Gas Transportation Support. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1350972.
Lilly, Michael Russell. Alaskan North Slope Oil & Gas Transportation Support. United States. doi:10.2172/1350972.
Lilly, Michael Russell. Fri . "Alaskan North Slope Oil & Gas Transportation Support". United States. doi:10.2172/1350972. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1350972.
@article{osti_1350972,
title = {Alaskan North Slope Oil & Gas Transportation Support},
author = {Lilly, Michael Russell},
abstractNote = {North Slope oil and gas resources are a critical part of US energy supplies and their development is facing a period of new growth to meet increasing national energy needs. While this growth is taking place in areas active in development for more than 20 years, there are many increasing environmental challenges facing industry and management agencies. A majority of all exploration and development activities, pipeline maintenance and other field support activities take place in the middle of winter, when the fragile tundra surface is more stable. The window for the critical oil and gas winter operational season has been steadily decreasing over the last 25 years. The number of companies working on the North Slope is increasing. Many of these companies are smaller and working with fewer resources than the current major companies. The winter operations season starts with the tundra-travel opening, which requires 15 cm of snow on the land surface in the coastal management areas and 23 cm in the foothills management areas. All state managed areas require -5°C soil temperatures at a soil depth of 30 cm. Currently there are no methods to forecast this opening date, so field mobilization efforts are dependent on agency personnel visiting field sites to measure snow and soil temperature conditions. Weeks can be easily lost in the winter operating season due to delays in field verification of tundra conditions and the resulting mobilization. After the season is open, a significant percentage of exploration, construction, and maintenance do not proceed until ice roads and pads can be built. This effort is dependent on access to lake ice and under-ice water. Ice chipping is a common ice-road construction technique used to build faster and stronger ice roads. Seasonal variability in water availability and permitting approaches are a constant constraint to industry. At the end of the winter season, projects reliant on ice-road networks are often faced with ending operations early or risk being caught on ice roads with flooded stream crossings, or unusable sections of ice road due to local melt. These challenges result in higher oil and gas field exploration and operational costs. Much of the scientific understanding to address transportation issues for oil and gas development on the North Slope exists, but has not been placed into a set of tools and data sets useful for industry and management agencies. Optimizing North Slope transportation networks during winter operation seasons is critical in managing increasing resource development and will provide a framework for environmentally-responsive development. Understanding the physical environment (such as snow, water, ice, soils) is necessary to ensure protection of fisheries and other natural resources on the sensitive tundra landscape. Solutions also have to do more than just describe current conditions, they need the ability to forecast short-term conditions. This will allow management agencies to respond to future variability in snow cover, soil temperature, and water availability more effectively. In turn, industry will then have more time to plan the significant mobilization taking place every winter season.},
doi = {10.2172/1350972},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Mar 31 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Fri Mar 31 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

Technical Report:

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  • This report summarizes existing information related to the transportation of Alaskan North Slope crude oil to U.S. markets. The report focuses upon various factors that have contributed to the need for transporting the crude to areas outside of the West Coast, the various alternatives proposed to distribute the excess oil, the environmental issues related to such distribution, and the research and development needs in areas where data are incomplete with respect to environmental issues.
  • The report determines the extent to which oil produced in Alaska will be in excess to the needs of the West Coast region and analyzes transportation alternatives that need to be considered for the movement of any oil in excess of West Coast demand. A general description of the various major alternative transportation systems is provided and environmental information relating to the construction and operation of a crude oil marine terminal is presented. North Slope crude oil pricing options and considerations and the potential for foreign exchange or trade agreements are covered.
  • As part of the Altemative Fuels Assessment, the Department of Energy (DOE) is studying the use of derivatives of natural gas, including compressed natural gas and methanol, as altemative transportation fuels. A critical part of this effort is determining potential sources of natural gas and the economics of those sources. Previous studies in this series characterized the economics of unutilized gas within the lower 48 United States, comparing its value for methanol production against its value as a pipelined fuel (US Department of Energy 1991), and analyzed the costs of developing undeveloped nonassociated gas reserves in several countries (US Departmentmore » of Energy 1992c). This report extends those analyses to include Alaskan North Slope natural gas that either is not being produced or is being reinjected. The report includes the following: A description of discovered and potential (undiscovered) quantities of natural gas on the Alaskan North Slope. A discussion of proposed altemative uses for Alaskan North Slope natural gas. A comparison of the economics of the proposed alternative uses for Alaskan North Slope natural gas. The purpose of this report is to illustrate the costs of transporting Alaskan North Slope gas to markets in the lower 48 States as pipeline gas, liquefied natural gas (LNG), or methanol. It is not intended to recommend one alternative over another or to evaluate the relative economics or timing of using North Slope gas in new tertiary oil recovery projects. The information is supplied in sufficient detail to allow incorporation of relevant economic relationships (for example, wellhead gas prices and transportation costs) into the Altemative Fuels Trade Model, the analytical framework DOE is using to evaluate various policy options.« less
  • Based upon the analysis contained in this report, the following conclusions have been drawn: (1) any of the several long-term pipeline proposals that contemplate shipment of Alaskan North Slope crude oil to pipeline distribution centers east of the Rocky Mountains could benefit all sections of the Nation, including at least a portion of the Northern Tier states; (2) distribution of Alaskan North Slope crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries will help to reduce the dependence of New England and the Middle Atlantic States on imported oil; (3) the Federal Government, in response to Section 18 of the Alaska Natural Gasmore » Transportation Act, is taking those steps necessary to expedite construction of permanent delivery systems; (4) there are significant environmental issues involved in all the pipeline delivery proposals which require additional time for analysis and resolution by the Federal Governments of the U.S. and Canada and the various states that would be transited; (5) the short-term situation regarding the delivery of crude oil to the Northern Tier states could not be addressed in this report; Canadian crude oil export policy is under review; and (6) based upon what is currently known about Canadian export policy, there are available alternatives for the distribution of North Slope crude oil and for providing supplies of crude oil to the Northern Tier states for a period of time sufficient to analyze and resolve the issues surrounding the long-term proposals.« less