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This could result in an increase in the approximate 500,000 barrels per day of oil now flowing through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, but the new production would come on line in increments, not all at once, and some project could always be delayed.

Unexpected delays can happen too, he said. For example, one ConocoPhillips project, the 30,000 barrel-per-day Greater Mooses Tooth No. 2, or GMT-2, is now expected to begin production in 2021, a year after its previous expected start date, due to delays with federal permitting.

However, a nearby twin project, GMT-1, is now in construction and expected to start up later this year, also at 30,000 b/d, Jepsen said. Both are within the federal NPR-A, west of the large producing fields on the North Slope, which are on state lands.

ConocoPhillips has described the two Greater Mooses Tooth projects being like a “string of pearls” extended west at roughly eight-mile intervals from CD-5, a producing site near the Colville that is part of the larger Alpine field on state-owned lands. Willow, if it is developed, would be one more pearl in the string.

“The three Willow appraisal wells support the previously announced estimate of a recoverable resource potential of at least 300 million barrels of oil,” ConocoPhillips said in its press release. A recoverable resource of that size will likely produce 100,000 barrels per day, company officials have said. Willow is expected to start production in 2023, although its construction has yet to be formally approved.

In addition to ConocoPhillips, the Pikka project, discovered by Armstrong, is now at an advanced stage of permitting. The Armstrong’s share of Pikka was recently acquired by Oil Search, a company based in Papua New Guinea, which is now operator.

Pikka is on state lands near the Colville River and is expected to produce 120,000 barrels per day. While has not yet been “sanctioned,” or formally approved, Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources Andy Mack said Oil Search told him it hopes to have Pikka producing by 2022 or 2023.

Other new projects include Fiord West by ConocoPhillips, a “satellite,” or separate oil accumulation tied into field infrastructure, which is expected to be producing 20,000 barrels per day by 2020; Nuna, a small project by Caelus Energy near that company’s producing Oooguruk field, which could produce 25,000 b/d, and two Hilcorp Energy projects including Moose Pad, in the Milne Point field, expects to produce 16,000 barrels per day beginning in 2020 and Liberty, an offshore discovery in shallow Beaufort Sea waters that will be capable of 60,000 b/d, and which could be operating by 2022, according to Hilcorp .

Jepsen, of ConocoPhillips, also said several of his company’s projects now in production are performing above expectations. For example, CD-5, near the Alpine field, is producing 36,000 barrels per day, well above the 16,000 barrels per day originally estimated, he said. A further expansion of CD-5 is planned.

Another new project performing well is North East West Sak, a viscous, or heavy, oil project in the Kuparuk River field that is an expansion of the existing West Sak viscous oil project. It started up last November two months ahead of schedule and is performing above expectations.

The large, older producing fields of the slope, like the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River fields, are also performing well. BP, the operator of the Prudhoe Bay field, has been able to keep its production stable for three years in a row, a real achievement given that all companies, including BP, had to cut costs after oil prices dropped in 2015.

Extended-reach horizontal wells are also being used to tap isolated oil deposits of oil in or near the producing fields, like at Fiord West in the Alpine field where river channels make access with conventional surface pipelines so costly that it would likely be uneconomic.