First Ever Field Pilot on Alaska's North Slope to Validate the Use of Polymer Floods for Heavy Oil EOREmail PagePrint Page

Project Information

Prime Performer:University of Alaska - FairbanksLocation:Fairbanks, AK
Project Duration:06/01/2018 - 10/31/2022Agreement Number:FE0031606
Technology Area:Unconventional Field Test SitesTotal Award Value:$9,715,350 
Key Technology:DOE Share:$7,131,065 
Performer Share:$2,584,285 

Superlinks (SL) - Learn More

Well pad at Milne Point
Well pad at Milne Point

Project Description

The primary goal of the project is to acquire scientific knowledge and gain polymer flood performance data, via the first ever advanced technology based field pilot to optimize the polymer flood design in the Milne Point Unit of the Schrader Bluff heavy oil pool on Alaska North Slope (ANS), with minimal disruption to ongoing field operations. Heavy oil is a vast energy resource that requires significant effort and expertise to produce economically. However, because conventional oil discoveries are not keeping up with overalloil demand, unconventional resources such as shale oil and heavy oil will be necessary to meet increasing world demand. Because American operators have never attempted polymer floods, this will be the first of its kind, unconventional resource application. The advanced technology will effectively integrate the advantages of polymer injection, low salinity water, conformance improvement and horizontal wells together to significantly enhance oil recovery for heavy oil reservoirs. The proposed research seeks answers to key unresolved questions, such as polymer injectivity for different viscosities/concentrations, timing of polymer breakthrough, polymer stability and retention in the formation, treatment of polymer water after breakthrough, and finally, incremental oil recovery as a function of polymer injected.

Project Benefits

Environmental Benefits: Shallow ANS heavy oil reservoirs are overlain by thick, continuous permafrost, which ranges in depth from 1,800–2,000 ft. Precisely for this particular reason, the biggest environmental benefit of ANSFL is the application of non-thermal EOR methods. Polymer flood is as benign as a simple waterflood, and thus it maintains the thermal stability and integrity of the permafrost. Another benefit compared with thermal methods is that polymer flood does not generate CO2 emissions. The participating universities and Hilcorp are fully compliant with all EPA requirements.

Other Benefits: The potential impact of the project has provided the “proof of (a known) concept” as far as the feasibility of polymer flood for enhanced recovery of heavy oils--using an advanced technology that will integrate the advantages of polymer injection, low-salinity water, horizontal wells, and conformance improvement together. Secondly, the success of this pilot project will pave the way for potential commercialization of ANS’ vast heavy/viscous oil resources. Finally, on a broader scale, the 20 to 25B barrels of recoverable, unconventional heavy oil near the Milne Point Unit has far reaching potential positive impacts including: development of other heavy oil fields (e.g., California); improving the underutilized capacity of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS); and benefits to the ANS’s major oil producers, the State of Alaska, U.S. DOE, and the Nation.

Presentations, Papers, and Publications

Contact Information

Federal Project Manager:David Cercone (
Technology Manager:John Rogers (
Principal Investigator:Abhijit Dandekar (