Exploration and development in Alaska during 1966 reached maximum activity. Exploratory drilling resulted in 5 new-field discoveries, 1 new-pool discovery, and 6 successful extensions out of 36 wells drilled. Success was limited to the Cook Inlet basin and the discovery rate decreased from 52% in 1965 to 30% in 1966. Particularly important was the confirmation of the McArthur River field as a “giant” oil field comparable to Swanson River, Middle Ground Shoal, and Granite Point. Seismic activity increased 31% from 1965. Extensive joint marine surveys were conducted in the Bristol Bay, lower Cook Inlet, and the Gulf of Alaska. Surface geological parties increased 17% from 1965. The Gulf of Alaska and Arctic Slope were the most active basins. State competitive lease sales in the Cook Inlet basin and the Gulf of Alaska brought a total bonus of $7,177,160 for 152,577 acres. The Department of the Interior opened 4,000,000 acres on the Arctic Slope for simultaneous filing. Leasing was slowed by native land claims on approximately 60% of the land area of Alaska.
Development drilling increased slightly; 9 oil wells were completed in offshore fields of Cook Inlet. Oil production increased 29% from 1965 to 14,358,212 bbls., and gas production increased 244% to 41,217,032 Mcf. In Cook Inlet 4 new drilling and production platforms were added to the 2 already in operation to drill the vast new offshore oil reserves. Five more platforms, to be erected in 1967, will provide a combined capacity of 400 wells. Dual pipelines 39 mi. long were laid to connect these new platforms to onshore facilities. Laying of a 20 in., 42-mi. pipeline began along the west shore of the Inlet, and will connect the developing west-side fields to a tanker terminal at Drift River. Ground was broken on the Kenai Peninsula near Nikiski for an ammonia-urea plant. The Kenai gas held will provide the methane feedstock. The shut-in Beluga River gas field is expected to produce gas in 1967 to generate onsite electrical power for transmission to Anchorage.