Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have completed the first assessment of the undiscovered, technically recoverable gas hydrate resources beneath the North Slope of Alaska. This assessment indicates the existence of technically recoverable gas hydrate resources—that is, resources that can be discovered, developed, and produced using current technology.
The approach used in this assessment followed standard geology-based USGS methodologies developed to assess conventional oil and gas resources. In order to use the USGS conventional assessment approach on gas hydrate resources, three-dimensional industry-acquired seismic data were analyzed. The analyses indicated that the gas hydrates on the North Slope occupy limited, discrete volumes of rock bounded by faults and downdip water contacts. This assessment approach also assumes that the resource can be produced by existing conventional technology, on the basis of limited field testing and numerical production models of gas hydrate-bearing reservoirs.
The area assessed in northern Alaska extends from the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska on the west through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the east and from the Brooks Range northward to the State-Federal offshore boundary (located 3 miles north of the coastline). This area consists mostly of Federal, State, and Native lands covering 55,894 square miles. Using the standard geology-based assessment methodology, the USGS estimated that the total undiscovered technically recoverable natural-gas resources in gas hydrates in northern Alaska range between 25.2 and 157.8 trillion cubic feet, representing 95 percent and 5 percent probabilities of greater than these amounts, respectively, with a mean estimate of 85.4 trillion cubic feet.