The state of Alaska plans to aggressively market a 14.7 million-acre lease sale announced Thursday in hopes of attracting new oil and natural gas development on state lands and waters.
Acreage involved in the Oct. 26 sale is roughly the size of Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut combined, and includes 2 million acres in the Beaufort Sea. There are also leases adjacent to the federally controlled Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
Congress would have to allow drilling in areas such as the refuge, but Alaska's Department of Natural Resources said developers drilling on nearby state leases could draw untapped oil from beneath the federal lands.
Such lease sales aren't new and have drawn mixed interest in recent years.
Still the state is making an effort to encourage development on its lands, while pushing for more drilling on federal lands to increase domestic oil and gas production and help meet Gov. Sean Parnell's audacious goal of boosting oil flow through the trans-Alaska pipeline to 1 million barrels a day within the decade.
Oil production in the state has been declining, and the average flow rate through the pipeline so far this year is about 596,400 barrels a day. The pipeline carries at least 10 percent of the nation's crude oil production, on average.
The upcoming sale was announced by Dan Sullivan, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources.
The department described the oil potential in the lease sale as enormous. For example, it cited an analysis that estimated roughly three to six billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, and 24 to 44 trillion cubic feet of natural gas on state and Alaska Native-owned lands between the petroleum reserve and the wildlife refuge.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said the Republican governor is trying to force the issue of developing in places such as the refuge in ways that other governors haven't.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said he was pleased the state is doing "its share to get our oil and gas resources developed, bringing energy security and jobs to Alaskans and across the country."
He said he will keep working with the rest of the state's congressional delegation to remove federal roadblocks to development in Alaska and keep pressing the Obama administration to follow through on commitments for energy development in Alaska.
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