Oil Drilling In Alaska

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Will the oil drilling in Alaska put the species in danger?

Will the oil drilling in Alaska put the species in danger?


There is concern that offshore oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities in the Arctic, including waters off Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia, are harming the local marine environment and, in particular, the biological resources that depend on it. Coastal indigenous people are concerned about long-term effects of these offshore development activities on their subsistence biological resources, particularly marine mammals and nearshore fish populations.

The main environmental concern associated with offshore oil and gas exploration and development in the Alaskan Beaufort and Chukchi Seas is that physical disturbance and permitted and accidental discharges of wastes associated with island construction, drilling, and production will harm the local marine ecosystem and introduce toxic chemicals into the local marine food web that supports commercial and subsistence species, such as fish, marine birds, and marine mammals. The wastes of greatest concern, because of the large volumes generated, are drilling muds and drill cuttings during exploratory and development drilling, and produced water during oil and gas production (Easton, 2006).

The current National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas allows ocean discharge of water-based drilling muds (WBM) and associated cuttings. Water-based drilling muds and associated cuttings were discharged during drilling of most of the 30 offshore exploratory wells in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. However, no drilling muds and cuttings were discharged to the sea during development drilling at Northstar Island, the only facility producing oil from US Federal waters in 2006. Liquid and solid wastes were injected into a disposal well on the production island or transported to shore for recycling or disposal. Produced water has never been discharged to coastal or offshore waters of the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. (Easton, 2006)

All produced water generated from offshore oil facilities is transported by pipeline to shore and reinjected as water-flood for enhanced oil production or disposal in a nonproductive geologic stratum. Some offshore facilities also have their own reinjection wells.


As new conventional crude oil and natural gas discoveries have declined and the existing proven reserves are being depleted, there is a growing urgency to find and develop new oil and gas resources. The extensive geologic prospecting and exploratory drilling in the Arctic over the last 80 y has revealed a strong potential for vast reserves of oil and gas on land and in marine waters throughout the Arctic. Rising fossil fuel prices combined with improvements in technologies for safely developing offshore oil and gas resources in the Arctic have stimulated interest in developing these vast untapped resources in Arctic regions of the United States (Alaska), Canada, Norway, Greenland, and Russia.

MMS estimated that the Alaskan Beaufort and Chukchi Seas contain about 50 billion barrels of oil and natural gas equivalent of undiscovered, technically recoverable reserves. These vast untapped fossil fuel resources could play an important role in the US goal of energy independence, in conjunction ...
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