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Senators Hollis French, Joe Paskvan, and Bill Wielechowski Visit First Shale Oil Exploratory Drilling Operations

Alaska State Senator Joe Paskvan touring Great Bear Petroleum’s exploratory shale drilling site on the North Slope.

Alaska State Senator Joe Paskvan touring Great Bear Petroleum’s exploratory shale drilling site on the North Slope.

Group sees major progress of unconventional drilling on North Slope

ANCHORAGE-This week, three state Senators visited the first shale oil exploratory drilling operations on the North Slope.   On Wednesday, the senators traveled to an area just south of the Prudhoe Bay field where Great Bear Petroleum is drilling its first exploratory wells.  Senate Resources Committee members Hollis French, Joe Paskvan, and Bill Wielechowski,  were briefed on the current drilling progress and toured the rig and camp.

“I got to witness firsthand the work that is progressing on the North Slope.  This exciting new development will give us a crucial initial analysis of the shale oil potential here in Alaska,” said Senator Hollis French, a former Cook Inlet and North Slope oil worker.  “This is an independent company putting its resources towards delivering more oil to the pipeline and creating new jobs for Alaskans.”

During a Senate Resources Committee hearing earlier this year, Great Bear Petroleum’s President and CEO Ed Duncan said if the rock does produce, “It will be beyond game-changing.”  Great Bear has teamed up with Halliburton to conduct extensive testing on this year’s exploratory wells.  Halliburton is considered a world leader in fracking techniques used to make shale rock produce oil and gas.  I­­­­­f the results are good, Great Bear plans to begin pilot production as early as next year, with full production starting in 2015.  As part of the development, Duncan anticipates drilling as many as 200 wells a year from gravel pads, meaning jobs would be year-round.

“Shale and other unconventional oil sources move very quickly into production,” said Senator Paskvan.  “If Great Bear is successful, Alaskans should be first in line, ready to fill these new jobs.  It’s vital that our job training programs begin to strategize about how to train our work force for this new opportunity.”  

According to the U.S. Geological survey, there may be as many as 2 billion barrels of shale oil resources in northern Alaska.    Alaska has three of the most prolific source rocks in the world, stacked one above the other.

In addition to Great Bear, Royale Energy recently bid for and obtained leases on 100,000 acres of what it termed “a prime shale play” on the North Slope.  Royale has said that it plans to drill as many as six exploration wells next winter on its holdings.

“It is an understatement to say this drilling breaks new ground,” said Senator Wielechowski.  “This is a new chapter in the history of oil in Alaska.  What I saw during this tour could very well be the start of a promising future in unconventional oil development that will extend the life of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and create thousands of jobs.”

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