By the mid-1980s, the Alaskan North Slope supplied
about a quarter of U.S. oil production. Meanwhile, as
Prudhoe production grew, the estimated resource
potential of the North Slope began to grow as well.
As production continued, industry geologists and
engineers devoted great effort to learn more about the
resource. That, combined with technological progress,
led to steady upward revisions of the estimated
recoverable oil from Prudhoe Bay. Operations in the
area led to a series of other major new discoveries nearby.
Several of these discoveries rank among the largest in
North America and gave rise to new development.
The cumulative experience with Arctic operations and the
use of new technologies have steadily brought down the
cost of exploration and development.
These cost reductions and the availability of North Slope
infrastructure have encouraged development of smaller
satellite fields that were identified during work on the
major discoveries – further increasing production on the
North Slope. Furthermore, after nearly four decades of oil
development, the Alaska North Slope is one of the most
intensively studied regions in North America (in addition
to being the best understood environment in the
Ongoing development, combined with the increasing
availability of pipeline capacity as Prudhoe Bay production
declines, also have stimulated interest in three adjacent
areas thought to contain major resource potential – the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to the east, the
National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) to the west
and the offshore areas to the north.