Unlocking Alaska’s energy potential will require specialized oil production equipment

Alaska’s geology will prove challenging to producers that lack the right oil production equipment.

Dan Sullivan, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), recently told Rigzone that he believes his state could be the site of a fresh oil and gas boom in the coming years.

Estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey lend a degree of support to Sullivan's claims. According to the USGS, Alaska's North Slope contains approximately 40 billion barrels of conventional oil and over 200 trillion cubic feet of conventional natural gas, in addition to substantial unconventional reserves.

It seems that the future of Alaskan oil and gas production may be more closely tied to the state's onshore reserves, as Shell recently announced that it is putting its offshore drilling plans "on hold" after its program – in which the company has already invested close to $5 billion – encountered several high-profile setbacks.

Federal prosecutors have been asked to take action against Shell in connection with two particular incidents, including one in which a drillship ran aground on an island in the Gulf of Alaska.

Shell is also currently facing legal action in California, where a Los Angeles-area municipality called Carson has accused the company of fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment in connection with environmental damage linked to past oilfield operations. The city is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Shell.

These cases clearly show the critical importance of safety during drilling operations, especially in challenging environments. Putting high-quality oil production equipment in place and ensuring it is well-maintained aids companies in preventing leaks, spills or other incidents that could create sizeable liabilities and damage a firm's reputation.

Furthermore, using the newest technologies will help producers maximize output from their oil and gas wells. Implementing an oil jet pump or other hydraulic lift equipment can be particularly beneficial, in terms of bolstering a company's production levels.