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Permafrost and other unique factors give Alaskan North Slope fields fewer options for heavy oil recovery than other, warmer areas, but substantial progress is being made using WAG and other advanced technologies.
Developing heavy oil is always a challenge, but on Alaska’s North Slope, it’s been a 30-year journey that is only now beginning to get answers. Several methods of heavy oil production have been tried, but permafrost, geology, politics and economics make recovery of this 20-to-30 billion bbl resource more difficult than heavy oil recovery in Canada and Venezuela. What follows is a brief description of the region, the politics and unique considerations that have slowed progress, and what’s been done technically to recover these resources, including more recent investigations into Water Alternating Gas (WAG) methods.
Much of the data about North Slope heavy oil is either held tight, or just not agreed on.
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