Alaska Officials Say North Dakota Oil Boom is Good News for America
North Dakota cannot take market share away from Alaska.
There's been a lot of talk about the oil boom in North Dakota.
So much so, you might imagine that state adopting the motto “North Dakota to the Future.”
But whatever happens there, it will have little effect on Alaska's oil production.
North Dakota jumped from the ninth-highest oil producing state to fourth in a brief period, leading to projections that it soon will surpass California and Alaska to claim the No. 2 spot.
But whether or not that occurs, North Dakota cannot take market share away from Alaska.
The reason: increased domestic oil production in any state will offset foreign imports -- not the production of other states.
Senator Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, chair of the Senate Resources Committee, says he is not bothered at all by the sudden rise of North Dakota as an oil producer.
"It doesn't preclude anything that's happening in Alaska. Because there's always -- the way things are now -- the marketplace will absorb oil produced in the United States, and take that into account, and that will diminish the need for the importation of oil from the Mideast."
And that is a bipartisan view of what's happening in North Dakota, based on the fact that America imports well over half of the oil that is consumed domestically.
"That's not causing Alaska to produce less oil,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage. “It's simply offsetting the amount of oil we need to import from Saudi Arabia or from Qatar or some other country around the world. Many of those countries are in OPEC, for instance; many countries that we would probably rather not have to deal with."
And Alaska North Slope oil is selling for a much higher price than the North Dakota oil that goes through Gulf Coast refineries -- up to $25 per barrel more.
"We certainly are able to attract a higher price in the near term,” said Joe Balash, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. “How long that premium is going to last -- some forecasts would say a couple of years, based on the glut caused by lack of infrastructure in the middle part of the continent. So for the near term, anyway, it's a premium to invest in Alaska relative to North Dakota or some parts of the Gulf Coast."
And Wielechowski says North Dakota's present boom in shale oil could be Alaska's near future, given the advent of hydraulic fracturing to release oil from tight rock formations.
"If the technology is being perfected in North Dakota, they can now come to Alaska and do it. They've got the technology figured out. It's similar weather conditions; it's similar type of rock formations. I think they probably can do it a lot quicker and a lot cheaper than having to start up from scratch with that technology."
Some Alaska business and oilfield workers are taking advantages of opportunities in the Bakken region of North Dakota.
But Wagoner says that doesn't bother him, either.
"Admittedly a lot of contractors and a lot of workers are going from Alaska to the Bakken play. But they were someplace else before they came to Alaska. And that's just the nature of the business; it's sometimes a transient business."
There's agreement that North Dakota’s success is good for America, including Alaska.
And Alaska’s fate is in its own hands.
Wielechowski predicts a new boom in Alaska within a couple of years because of the shale oil potential on the North Slope.
And he says one company alone is speculating that it could put 1 million barrels per day in the pipeline -- compared to the total of 600,000-plus that is being shipped today.