Alaska’s petroleum exploration and development activity was virtually at a standstill during 1971. Only 6 exploratory and 29 development wells were drilled for declines of 78.6% and 49.2%, respectively. One discovery was made on the Arctic Slope; for the third consecutive year, none was made in the Cook Inlet basin. No wells were drilled in Alaska’s other major basins. Geophysical and surface geologic investigations totaled 94.5 crew-months, down 45.7% from 1970. Oil production decreased 5.8% and gas production increased 4.7%.

Cumulative state production at year end totaled approximately 396,396,757 bbl of oil and 884,992,139 Mcf of gas, of which 356,854,769 Mcf is casinghead gas. Cumulative petroleum industry investments in Alaska through 1971 are estimated to be in excess of $3 billion; 24 competitive state oil and gas lease sales alone have brought bonus payments of $998,107,679.

No federal lease sales were conducted, and at year end total Federal land under oil and gas lease was 5,326,815 acres, down 13.7%. Two new Arctic Slope federal units were approved. One competitive state lease sale was held in the Cook Inlet basin. State lands under oil and gas lease at year end totaled 3,945,222 acres, down 5.0%.

Vigorous industry opposition by the many conservation and environmental groups throughout the country is the cause of this sharp decline in activity. Over 95% of Alaska’s 375 million acres remain locked up by the Federal land freeze, and construction on the proposed trans-Alaska pipeline had not started at year end because of lack of a construction permit.

The forecast for 1972 is for a twofold increase in exploratory drilling, a slight decline in development drilling, and a sharp drop in surface geologic and geophysical investigations. Production should remain near the 1971 level with no real increase to be expected until Prudhoe Bay field wells go on production. State and federal lands under oil and gas lease will also decline during 1972.

Additional geologic and geophysical investigations directly or largely applicable to petroleum resource evaluation in Alaska during 1971 included 12 crew-months by the U. S. Geological Survey and a 43,932-sq mi aeromagnetic survey by the Alaska Division of Geological Survey.

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