ANCHORAGE (AP) More oil exploration drilling is predicted this winter on the North Slope than last year.
The Petroleum News reported this week that as many as 13 wells could be drilled this winter. That's up from seven drilled last winter and spring.
Of the 13 potential wells, as many as seven could be wildcats, while the other six would be what are known as outpost wells. Those are wells that are close to development, but like wildcats often have huge potential and generally require their own ice roads and pads.
Several factors are credited for the increase in drilling, including higher oil prices and geologic success in recent North Slope drilling inside existing units and in frontier areas such as Northwest Kuparuk and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The increased activity also is partly attributed to last year's election of Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, an array of pro-oil and gas bills that passed the state Legislature this spring and the Bush administration's policy of encouraging development.
But most company and state officials interviewed said the impacts of the Murkowski administration and a Republican-led Legislature have barely begun.
Mark Hanley, the Alaska spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum, said that company was already far into exploration planning worldwide by the time many of the pro-industry bills passed this year were signed into law.
''The legislation passed this year will have its first major impact next year, for the 2004-05 drilling season and beyond,'' Hanley said.
The possible exploration wells this year include:
One to three wildcats by Armstrong Alaska at the Northwest Milne prospect.
Two to three wildcats by Conoco Phillips in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
One wildcat by Total in the petroleum reserve.
Five outpost wells by Conoco Phillips at Kuparuk and one at Titania, Colville expansion area.
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