Alaska Petroleum Systems

Science Center Objects

The Alaska Petroleum Systems project has three main objectives:

(A) conduct research that increases our understanding of Alaska petroleum systems,
(B) conduct assessments of undiscovered oil and gas resources, and
(C) deliver energy-resource information to land and resource managers, policy makers, and the public.

The project is an effort that emphasizes a balance between fundamental research and mission-critical achievements. Fundamental research (regional sequence stratigraphic and structural framework, distribution and quality of source rocks, geochronologic and thermochronologic history of critical regions, etc.) is essential because Alaska remains an underexplored energy frontier. Thus, a robust petroleum-systems framework is the key to understanding regional petroleum potential, completing our mission-critical work (mainly assessments of undiscovered petroleum resources), and responding quickly to information requests regarding new and emerging oil and gas activities (e.g., new discoveries and development of transitional reservoirs). Since 2017 the project has concentrated on complying with Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3352, which directs the USGS to update a series of assessments across the entire Alaska North Slope. This website illustrates the breadth and depth of recently completed and ongoing research.

False-color composite Landsat image of northern Alaska

False-color composite Landsat image of northern Alaska showing boundaries of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (including “1002 Area”), Native lands (transparent white polygons, existing and proposed oil fields (colored polygons), and exploration wells (white labels). Project work extends across the full 650-mile width of the North Slope and adjacent offshore. 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2017 completed an assessment of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). Estimated means of 8.7 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (associated and nonassociated) in conventional accumulations in the Cretaceous Nanushuk and Torok Formations in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, adjacent State and Native lands, and State waters. The estimated undiscovered oil resources in the Nanushuk and Torok Formations are significantly higher than previous estimates, owing primarily to recent, larger than anticipated oil discoveries. Below is a list of other USGS assessments in Alaska: