University of Alaska research demonstrates potential for North Slope heavy oil production

    The campus of UAF.

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - 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.

    According to a press release for Gov. Mike Dunleavy's office, 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 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.”    

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