| ANCHORAGE, Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska Feb 21 Companies that use
hydraulic fracturing to extract oil or gas in Alaska would have
to disclose the chemicals they pump into the ground, notify
everyone nearby and test water quality before and after they do
it under new rules proposed by state regulators.
The rules are being considered by the Alaska Oil and Gas
Conservation Commission even though the state does not yet have
any of the shale oil or gas production that have proven
controversial elsewhere in the nation.
Fracturing technology has been used for decades in Alaska,
but without the complications associated with the shale boom
farther south, said commission member Cathy Foerster.
Alaska's oil and gas is produced entirely from conventional
rock formations, which are porous and permeable. And with the
North Slope's permafrost, remoteness from residential areas and
other characteristics, most Alaskan operators are able to avoid
the conflicts that have arisen in the lower 48 states, she said.
But shale production could be in Alaska's future, she added,
as could concerns over the large amount of fracturing that is
required to draw hydrocarbons out of non-permeable, non-porous
One company, Anchorage-based Great Bear Petroleum LLC, holds
leases to about 500,000 North Slope acres and is planning
several exploration wells to test shale-oil prospects south of
the nation's two largest oil fields.
The company is targeting shale rock that was the geological
source of oil in the porous rock that holds the giant Prudhoe
Bay and Kuparuk reservoirs, Foerster said.
"If there's any correlation between the conventional rocks
and the source rocks, then we ought to have something fabulous.
But who knows?" Foerster said.
According to a U.S. Geological Survey report issued a year
ago, the North Slope could hold up to 2 billion barrels of shale
oil and 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. It was the
first-ever USGS estimate for North Slope shale resources.
The AOGCC aims to have clear fracturing regulations in place
before anything happens, Foerster said. Apart from the proposed
well-water testing before and after any fracturing procedures,
landowners and well operators within a quarter mile of the sites
must be notified and the fracturing chemicals must be disclosed.
The AOGCC wants more comprehensive disclosure than what the
companies already voluntarily disclose to a national database,
Foerster said. "We want to be able to monitor things a little
more closely so we can have a good feel for what's going on."
The commission has scheduled an April 4 hearing on the
proposed rules. Foerster said she hopes they will be in place by
the end of the year, after the required public and legal review.