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Alaska North Slope Gas Hydrate Reservoir Characterization
Project Number
Last Reviewed Dated

The goal of this project is to characterize the large in-place methane hydrate resource on the Alaska North Slope (ANS) and to conduct field and lab studies to determine the potential for methane, produced from hydrate, to become a viable part of the overall energy supply.

Delineation Map of Gas Hydrates, Free Gas and Oil Fields


  • BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. – providing access to data and selected field areas as well as project management, geological, and geophysical expertise.
  • ASRC Energy Services – providing geologic, engineering, operations, and project management expertise.
  • University of Alaska–Fairbanks – conducting laboratory studies of previously poorly known reservoir parameters, including relative permeability.
  • University of Arizona, Tucson – conducting regional geologic studies to ascertain the geometry and controls over the gas hydrate stability zone and the potential reservoirs within.
  • United States Geological Survey – providing a wide range of data acquisition, operational, geologic, geophysical, geochemistry, and geomechanical expertise to the project as well as significant contributions to overall project planning and coordination.
  • Interpretation Services – worked with the USGS to identify and characterize hydrate reservoirs from 3-D seismic data.
  • Ryder-Scott Company – providing reservoir simulation and engineering expertise to evaluate the potential production response from various potential well sites and production techniques, as well as planning of potential long-term production testing scenarios.
  • APA Petroleum Engineering – providing operations expertise and economics modeling capabilities to support the analyses of alternative production scenarios and candidate well locations.
  • Fekete – providing reservoir simulation and engineering expertise to evaluate the potential production response from various potential well sites and production techniques.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – providing reservoir simulation and engineering expertise to evaluate the potential production response from potential well sites and production techniques, as well as computed tomography (CT) scanning capabilities for use in the characterization of cores from the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well.
  • National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) – providing sedimentology and mineralogical sampling of cores from the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well; reservoir simulation and engineering expertise to evaluate the potential production response from various potential well sites; and production techniques through code comparison study and thermal property analyses of cores taken at the Mt. Elbert site.
  • GeoTek – providing high-resolution digital scanning of cores from the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well.
  • Omni Laboratories – providing well operations support as well as reservoir property and core analyses of the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well.
  • Oregon State University – providing pore water and microbiological analyses of samples collected during drilling and coring of the Mt. Elbert site.
  • Isotech Laboratories – providing gas geochemistry for samples from the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well.
  • Texas A&M University – providing detailed interpretation of electromagnetic propagation tool logs collected from the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well.
  • Weston Solutions. Inc. - providing project management, project reporting services, and gas hydrate R&D expertise.

Assessments produced by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have estimated that 85 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas resources exist within gas hydrates in northern Alaska. Past USGS assessments indicated 40 tcf of the resource may exist within hydrate deposits below existing oil and gas production facilities. In 2001, BP Exploration Alaska Inc. proposed a state-of-the-art 3-D seismic survey over its Milne Point production unit to provide a starting point for a full evaluation of the feasibility of commercial production from Arctic hydrates.

Efforts under this project were broken into several operational phases.  Phase 1 focused on the evaluation and development of lab, modeling, and field techniques and technologies required for assessment of ANS hydrates and for conducting field-based operations planned in later project phases. Phase 2 focused on actual assessment of ANS hydrate resources and the operational planning for future field testing.  These initial phases implemented fully integrated, detailed geophysical interpretation and modeling; regional geologic characterization of prospective hydrate-bearing units; and advanced reservoir and economic modeling to select a location for drilling, coring, and potential production testing.  Phase 3 concentrated on activities necessary to achieve a long-term depressurization-based field test of methane production from an ANS hydrate reservoir.  Phase 3A included the drilling, logging, and coring of a stratigraphic hydrate test well in the Milne Point Unit (MPU) as a mechanism to verify reservoir characterizations and test techniques and technologies necessary to prepare for a long-term production test planned for  Phase 3B of the project.  Unfortunately, the project did not extend into the long-term production-testing phase.


This project has been a critical first step in determining the commercial viability of methane production from Arctic hydrate deposits. The project has greatly advanced the tools and techniques used to delineate specific hydrate prospects and model their potential productivity and commercial viability. The project also provided, through initial planning efforts, significant insight into what a long-term extended production test of a U.S. gas hydrate reservoir might require and valuable insight into the relative merits of various contemplated production and stimulation methods for gas hydrate. 

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Field Testing (Phase 3)

  • Completion of detailed evaluation and ranking of potential ANS field test locations and the development of a framework of options and production testing methodologies for long-term production test sites, including well completion and test design scenarios.
  • Analysis of data from the 2007 Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well including publication of the scientific results as a special volume of the Journal of Marine and Petroleum Geology (Vol. 28, Issue 2, Feb 2011).
  • Completion of a vertical stratigraphic test well (the “Mt. Elbert” prospect) including petrophysical analyses, full core throughout the hydrate stability zone, a full suite of wireline logs, and short-duration testing with the Modular Formation Dynamics Tester. Highlights include:
    • Four-hundred and thirty feet of core collected (100 feet hydrate-bearing).
    • Confirmation of the existence of 60–75 percent hydrate saturation within reservoir quality sands in target intervals and validation of methods used to identify potential hydrate occurrence.
    • Confirmation of the formation’s ability to yield gas from hydrate through pressure reduction, but with indication that chemical or thermal stimulation may be required for long-term production.
    • A large amount of samples and data from the drilling, logging, and coring operations were distributed to participating researchers from around the world.
  • Completion of seismic analyses, site characterization and selection, and development of detailed scientific and operational plans for drilling, logging and coring for the Mt. Elbert stratigraphic test well.

Assessment and Planning (Phases 1 and 2)

  • Economic analysis of hydrate field development scenarios that indicate the potential commercial viability of hydrate development.
  • Delineation, characterization, and assessment of regional resource potential for 14 discrete gas hydrate accumulations within the Milne Point area containing up to 600 bcf of gas in-place,
  • Confirmation of up to 33 tcf of regional hydrate resource potential in place in the Eileen trend.
  • Development of geophysical modeling enabling the correlation of seismic attributes with hydrate reservoir parameters such as zone thickness and hydrate saturation.
  • Regional structural mapping of reservoir units, the mapping of shallow fault offsets, and the determination of syndepositional faulting and fault-seal potential.
  • Fabrication of a laboratory facility to measure the relative permeability of typical sandstone reservoir rock to gas and water under a range of hydrate saturations.
  • Adaptation of the commercial modeling package, CMG STARS, to provide reservoir modeling capabilities for hydrate prospects, and use of the model to determine the production potential of gas hydrate settings.
  • Analysis of MPU seismic data and integration with MPU well log data and publicly available well data from the surrounding Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River production units.
Current Status

(December 2014)
The project performance period ended on March 31, 2014, and Phases 1–3A are complete. Potential opportunities to conduct a long-term hydrate production test phase under this project were pursued for several years but were complicated by multiple factors.  BP Exploration Alaska and DOE could not find a viable path forward into Phase 3B within a reasonable time period and made a mutual decision to end the project.  The final project report is available below under "Additional Information".

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Project Cost Information:
Phase 1: DOE Contribution: $ 2,611,828, Recipient Contribution: $5,396,234
Phase 2: DOE Contribution: $ 870,485, Recipient Contribution: $100,775
Phase 3A: DOE Contribution: $6,337,103, Recipient Contribution: $316,628

Contact Information

NETL - Richard Baker (
NETL - Ray Boswell Hydrate Program Technology Manager (
BP Exploration Alaska - Scott Digert (

Additional Information

In addition to the information provided here, a full listing of project related publications and presentations as well as a listing of funded students can be found in the Methane Hydrate Program Bibliography [PDF]. Research efforts under this project are complete. The final report is available below under "Additional Information".

Project Final Report [PDF-30.1MB] - December, 2014

BPXA Status Meeting Presentation - Hunter [PDF-6.01MB] - January 2009

BPXA Status Meeting Presentation - Hancock [PDF-669KB] - January, 2009

BPXA Status Meeting Presentation - Wilson [PDF-5.40MB] - January, 2009

2008 ICGH Paper - Investigation of Gas Hydrate-Bearing Sandstone Reservoirs at the "Mount Elbert" Stratigraphic Test Well, Milne Point, Alaska [PDF]

2008 ICGH Paper - Analyses of Production Tests and MDT Tests Conducted in Mallik and Alaska Methane Hydrate Reservoirs: What Can We Learn from These Well Tests? [PDF]

2008 ICGH Paper - Preliminary Assessment of Hydrocarbon Gas Sources from the Mt. Elbert No. 1 Gas Hydrate Test Well, Milne Pt. Alaska [PDF]

2008 ICGH Paper - An International Effort to Compare Gas Hydrate Reservoir Simulators [PDF]

2008 ICGH Paper - Analysis of Modular Dynamic Formation Test Results from the Mount Elbert-01 Stratigraphic Test Well, Milne Point Unit, North Slope Alaska [PDF]

Alaska Gas Hydrate Research and Stratigraphic Test Preliminary Results [PDF-1.84MB] - Robert B. Hunter, Scott A. Digert, Ray Boswell, and Timothy S. Collett - March, 2008

A listing of the available well log data from BP-DOE-US "Mount Elbert" test - Digital well log data acquired at the February 2007 gas hydrates test well at Milne Point, Alaska are now available. Data include Gamma ray, neutron porosity, density porosity, three-dimensional high resolution resistivity, acoustics including compressional- and shear-wave data, and nuclear magnetic resonance. 

ANS Stratigraphic Test Well - February, 2007

Topical Report - June 2005:  Drilling and Data Acquisition and Planning [PDF-8092KB]

Technical Report  - October 2003: Natural Gas Hydrate Characterization - Prudhoe Bay [PDF-4906KB]

Poster - Use of Seismic Attributes and Modeling [PDF-3705KB] - North Slope, Alaska