The University of Alaska Fairbanks will lead an investigation of heavy oil extraction on the North Slope. The U.S. Department of Energy announced $7 million in funding for the project today as DOE research laboratory representatives gathered in Fairbanks for National Lab Day events.
DOE science undersecretary Paul Dabbar says the project follows agency backed extraction research that lead to the recent year’s Lower 48 oil and gas production boom.
”And, what we wanna try to do is to try to help the innovation here in Alaska for unique Alaska geography and geology,” Dabbar said.
“I think the future is heavy oil or viscous oil,” UAF petroleum engineering department chair Abhijit Dandekar said.
Dandekar says the DOE project, will explore a technique that could enable extraction of thick crude locked in frozen North Slope oil fields.
”We have some challenges, such as permafrost, so we cannot really deploy some of the typical techniques that we use such as heat to reduce the viscosity,” Dandekar said. “So this particular funding is focused on injecting polymer.”
Dandekar says the project is important because an estimated 25 to 30 billion barrels of heavy oil are locked in North Slope fields. The polymer injection technique will be tested at the Milne Point field. Four other universities are involved in the UAF project, which will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.