NWEA Speaker Program for 2018-2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019




David M. Hite


Alaska’s first commercial oil and gas province, the Cook Inlet Basin, of South-Central Alaska, was identified by the presence of numerous oil and gas seeps in the southern part of the basin and the Alaska Peninsula. The oil and gas seeps were first recognized by Russian explorers, in the 1850s.  Early exploration was centered in the vicinity of these seeps, which emanate from rocks of Jurassic and Cretaceous ages. The first exploration drilling began in 1902 and ultimately 18 wells were drilled in the southern portions of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula prior to 1950.  After 1950 exploration shifted northward, and the fourth well drilled in the northern portion of the basin was the discovery well for the Swanson River field in 1957.  This generated an exploration boom, and by 1970, seven of the inlet’s eleven oil fields and 17 of the 35+ gas fields had been discovered.  These early discoveries represent more than 98% of both the oil and gas produced to date.

 After the Prudhoe Bay discovery, in 1968, exploration activity in the Cook Inlet area declined sharply, and over the next 30 years, only four small oil fields and nine small gas were discovered.  As of year-end 2011 (the year Memoir 104 was submitted for publication), the cumulative production from these latter discoveries was less than 20 MMBO and 65 BCFG.

 A declining reserve base and concerns regarding the ability to meet local gas demand led to an increase in gas-directed exploration in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  From 2000 to year-end 2011, eight additional gas fields were discovered, with the most important discoveries occurring in 2011. Cumulative production from the five pre-2011 discoveries totaled approximately 25 BCFG at the time the original report was completed in 2011.  The three fields discovered in 2011 were not yet developed at the time of the report; however, the cumulative, preliminary reserve estimates for these three discoveries are thought to be approximately 1.0 TCFG.

The total cumulative production in the Cook Inlet Basin, from 1958 through 2011 is 1.3 BBO from eight oil fields and 7.5 TCFG from28 gas fields.  Since AAPG Memoir 104 was completed cumulative production has risen to more than 1.365 BBO and 8.505 TCFG.

Given the relatively short, punctuated exploration history of this hydrocarbon basin, renewed exploration activity, using up-to-date technology, will very likely yield significantly positive results.  Recent evaluations by both the USDOE and the USGS place the mean for conventional undiscovered technically recoverable resources in the range of 13 to 17 TCFG and 600 MMBO.


Hite, D. M., and Stone D. M., 2013, A History of Oil and Gas Exploration, Discovery, and Future Potential: Cook Inlet Basin, South-Central Alaska, in D. M. Stone, and D. M. Hite, ed., Oil and Gas Fields of the Cook Inlet Basin, Alaska: AAPG Memoir 104,     p. 1-35.

Stanley, R. G., R. R. Charpentier, T. A. Cook, D. W. Houseknecht, T. R. Klett, K. A. Lewis, P. G. Lillis, P. H. Nelson, J. D. Phillips, R. M. Pollastro, C. J. Potter, W. A. Rouse, R. W. Saltus, C. J. Schenk, A. K. Shah, and S. C. Valin, 2011, Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Cook Inlet Region, South-central Alaska, 2011: U.S. Department of the Interior, USGS, Fact Sheet 2011-3068, 2 p.

Thomas, C. P., T. C. Doughty, D. D. Faulder, and D. M. Hite, 2004, South-Central Alaska Natural Gas Study: U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Arctic Energy Office, Contract DE-AM26-99FT40575, 207 p.



David M. Hite has more than 50 years of experience in oil and oil and gas research, exploration and development, resource evaluation, and management.  He earned a B.S. in geology from Oregon State University in 1962 and M. S. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1964 and 1968 respectively.  David commenced his professional career in 1967 with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) in their applied research group.  He subsequently worked as exploration geologist (Alaska), senior staff geologist (responsible for all domestic geologic recruiting and training), district and regional exploration manager (Alaska and Southeastern United States), senior exploration advisor, and manager of geotechnical services for ARCO Alaska Inc.  He worked for ARCO for a total of 24 years, the majority of this time being focused on Alaska.

Since 1992 he has been an independent consulting petroleum geologist focused on Alaska and primarily located in Anchorage, Alaska. In this capacity, he has consulted for major and mid-sized companies such as Exxon, BP, Phillips (now ConocoPhillips), ARCO Alaska Inc. and Anadarko Petroleum, as well as numerous independents, native corporations, and utilities.  He has also consulted for a number of state and federal agencies, and served as an expert witness in major court cases involving with hundreds of millions to billions of dollars at stake.  

 He has also served as a member on the National Academy Sciences Polar Research Board and as a member on the National Research Council Committee report on Cumulative Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Activities on Alaska’s North Slope.  In 2013, he was co-editor of AAPG Memoir 104—Oil and Gas Fields of the Cook Inlet Basin, Alaska

Thursday, May 23, 2019 Portland State Student Presentations



Northwest Energy Association