National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska Exploration Program

EMD-79-13: Published: Dec 5, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 1978.

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The Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act of 1976 calls for studies on: (1) procedures for developing and distributing petroleum resources of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA), and (2) values and alternative uses of lands in the NPRA. The first study entails making an assessment of the hydrocarbon potential of NPRA, using data from the exploration program. Considering the difficulties of exploration in the Arctic and deadlines imposed for the studies, conduct of the exploration program has been commendable. However, direction of the program has not maximized chances for discovering hydrocarbons or for assessing the hydrocarbon potential of the NPRA. Problems include: (1) lack of clear objectives for the program and an explicit plan for carrying it out; (2) uncertainty over the duration of the program; and (3) a mandate to drill too many wells in too short a timeframe without adequate time to collect and analyze data relating to site selection and analysis. The Secretary of the Interior should: (1) develop an explicit overall plan for Congress setting forth the status of the NPRA exploration program and his best estimate of the amount of additional exploration needed to complete an assessment of hydrocarbon potential; (2) better define goals of the NPRA exploration program; (3) consider offering legislation to extend deadlines for studies; and (4) consider the desirability of allowing industry to conduct exploration and development.

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