Situated on the northern coast of Alaska east of Prudhoe Bay, ANWR’s native lands in the coastal plain hold a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels of crude oil, as assessed in the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Yet, upstream activities had been effectively banned before December 2017, when the area was under a drilling moratorium.
Things changed when the passage of Public Law 115-97 required the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to establish and administer a competitive program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas.
To reach peak production, fields are assumed to take three to four years. They maintain peak production for three to four years, and then to decline until they are no longer profitable and are abandoned.
Start of production not until 2031
The effect of this law on U.S. crude oil production is reflected in three resource estimate values — low, mean, and high —in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2018. In all three cases, production from ANWR does not start until 2031 because of the time needed to acquire leases, explore, and develop the required production infrastructure.
In the Mean ANWR case, cumulative U.S. production from 2031 through 2050 is 3.4 billion barrels higher than in the AEO2018 Reference case. From 2031 through 2050, cumulative U.S. production is 5.1 billion higher in the High ANWR case and 2.0 billion barrels higher in the Low ANWR case than in the AEO2018 Reference case.
To bring the oil bounty to market, Alaska relies on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) which transports crude oil from the frozen North Slope to the warm-water port at Valdez on the state's southern coast. Capacity reached a peak flow in the late 1980s at 2 million barrels per day (b/d); current flow is nearly 500,000 b/d.