Alaska North Slope

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A map of northern Alaska; the dotted line shows the southern boundary of the North Slope. The National Petroleum Reserve -Alaska is to the West, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the east, and Prudhoe Bay is between them.

The Alaska North Slope is the region of the U.S. state of Alaska located on the northern slope of the Brooks Range along the coast of two marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean, the Chukchi Sea being on the western side of Point Barrow, and the Beaufort Sea on the eastern.

Petroleum resources[edit]

Map from the US Bureau of Land Management showing structures that create the oil fields in Alaska

The region contains the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, with the bulk of Alaska's known petroleum until the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field was discovered in 1968, Prudhoe Bay itself, as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which itself has been the subject of controversy surrounding the possibility of petroleum drilling within its boundaries. The petroleum extracted from the region is transferred south by means of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System to Valdez on the Pacific Ocean.[1] Under the North Slope is an ancient seabed - the source of the oil. Within the North Slope, there is geological feature called the Barrow Arch - a belt of the kind of rock known to be able to serve as a trap for oil. It runs from the city of Barrow to a point just west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[1][2] The Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province, encompassing all the lands and adjacent Continental Shelf areas north of the Brooks Range-Herald arch (see map) were estimated by the USGS in 2005 to hold more than 50 billion bbl of oil and natural-gas liquids and 227 trillion cubic feet of gas.[2]

The source rock for the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field and neighboring reserves is also a potential source for tight oil and shale gas - it could contain "up to 2 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and up to 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a 2012 U.S. Geological Survey report."[3]


Landsat 7 false-color image of the North Slope. Along the coast, fast ice still clings to the shore in a solid, frozen sheet. At the top of the scene is the drifting sea ice. A dark blue strip of open water, known as a flaw lead, separates the fast ice from the drifting sea ice. The Brooks Range is visible at the bottom. (June 2001)

Within the North Slope, only a surface "active layer" of the tundra thaws each season; most of the soil is permanently frozen year-round. On top of this permafrost, water flows to sea via shallow, braided streams or settles into pools and ponds.[1] Along the bottom of the Landsat 7 image on the right the rugged terrain of the Brooks Range mountains is snow-covered in places (blue areas) and exposed (pink areas) in others.

Much of the region is located in North Slope Borough.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Peter Canby. The Specter Haunting Alaska New York Review of Books 52:18, November 17, 2005
  2. ^ a b David W. Houseknecht and Kenneth J. Bird. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska, 2005. Professional Paper 1732–A Oil and Gas Resources of the Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province
  3. ^ Margaret Kriz Hobson (April 3, 2013). "SHALE OIL: Geologist's Alaska gamble could turn into America's next big shale play". Energy Wire, E & E Publishing. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Alaska North Slope at Wikimedia Commons, North Slope Science Initiative official website "North Slope of Alaska". NASA Earth Observatory newsroom. 2006-02-19. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 

Coordinates: 69°03′28″N 152°51′46″W / 69.0578758°N 152.8628274°W / 69.0578758; -152.8628274