The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System transported more oil in 2017 than it did in 2016, marking the second consecutive year of increased oil production from the North Slope, according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which manages the pipeline.
Alyeska, owned by the North Slope’s oil and gas producers, said TAPS carried 192.5 million barrels in 2017, an average of 527,323 barrels per day. That’s up from 189.5 million and 517,868 barrels per day in 2016 and 185.6 million and 508,446 barrels per day in 2015.
North Slope oil production has been generally declining since 1988, when the pipeline shipped 744 million barrels, and any reversal of that trend is notable. Before 2016, oil production hadn’t posted a year-over-year increase since 2002. The pipeline hasn’t posted two years of increases since the peak of production in the 1980s.
The increase comes despite continued job losses on the North Slope: Companies are producing more oil with fewer workers. In 2014, the Alaska Legislature cut oil production taxes in an effort to spur development. Several oil companies have said that cut is a contributing factor to the increased production.
The State of Alaska expects production to rise again in 2018 before resuming its long-term decline in 2019. Congress recently approved oil and gas lease sales in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but any oil found there is not expected to travel through the pipeline for another decade or more.
Higher production will not have a significant impact on Alaska’s state budget situation. Taxes on oil production provide the vast majority of state revenue, but oil prices at present levels of production would have to exceed $100 per barrel to balance the budget.
Alaska’s state deficit for the current fiscal year is approximately $2.5 billion, and the deficit for the coming fiscal year is expected to be $2.7 billion.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 523-2258.