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Oil and gas tracts set aside for methane hydrate research

(Anchorage, AK) – The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is evaluating the potential of 11 tracts of state land on the North Slope for a long-term field test of methane hydrate production in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy.  DNR will defer the tracts – NS1189, NS1195, NS1196, NS1199, NS1222, NS1225, BS0318, BS0319, BS0321, BS0329, and BS0330 – from the upcoming fall 2013 North Slope and Beaufort Sea lease sales to preserve the opportunity to evaluate them.

These tracts were selected due to their potential to support methane hydrate research. However, if any of the tracts are found to be are unnecessary for the research program, they will be offered in subsequent lease sales. The tracts share four characteristics:  proximity to known methane hydrate deposits; location within zones with a probability for hydrate occurrence; proximity to existing North Slope infrastructure; and an unleased, unencumbered status.  DNR will undertake further evaluation of the tracts to determine their suitability as research sites. 

In April, DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan and DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Chris Smith signed a Memorandum of Understanding between their agencies to foster and support unconventional energy research in Alaska, including methane hydrates research. Identifying a suitable location for a long-term field production test is an important step in furthering the research partnership between the State of Alaska and DOE created by the MOU.

DNR and DOE are weighing a variety of options for proceeding with research if hydrate prospects are confirmed on one or more of the tracts, including opportunities for private companies to partner with DNR and DOE on research.  It is important to note that activity associated with shallow hydrates research is unlikely to interfere with evaluation of deeper conventional oil and gas potential on the deferred tracts.

A copy of the MOU between DNR and DOE is available at http://dnr.alaska.gov/commis/priorities/Signed_MOU.pdf.

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