Alaska's Oil & Gas Industry
Alaska has produced more than 18 billion barrels of oil since the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in March 1968. Oil production has been an engine of economic growth in Alaska, funding up to 90% of the state’s General Fund revenues and accounting for over $180 billion in total revenue since statehood.
The oil and gas industry paid over $3.1 billion in state and local taxes and royalties in 2019, including $2.7 billion to state government and $449 million to local governments.
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How Much Oil Is There in Alaska?
Alaska's crude oil reserves were estimated to be about 3.2 billion barrels at the beginning of 2022, making it the 4th largest in the U.S. Alaska has been in the top 5 oil-producing states for decades. The state ascended from 6th place in 2020 to 4th in 2021 and 2022, even though its annual oil production was the lowest in nearly 50 years at 437,000 barrels per day.
Alaska's oil output peaked in 1988 at 2 million barrels per day and has declined steadily since then as the state's oil fields matured. In recent years, Alaska has experienced warmer temperatures, and for longer periods of time. Warmer temperatures reduce the amount of time that companies can explore for onshore oil because ice roads and drilling pads are used only during the winter when the frozen ground is less damaged by heavy equipment.
Why is Oil Field Work So Dangerous?
Oil and gas workers routinely have to work around heavy machinery, heights, chemicals, moving vehicles, and many other hazards. They must also contend with bad weather conditions such as high winds, strong storms, freezing temperatures, and intense heat.
Many oil and gas workers have long, tiring shifts: in some jobs, employees may work 1 to 2 weeks straight before getting a day off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They may also be pressured by their employers to do more work in less time. All of these things may cause accidents resulting in severe injuries and even death.
Related Article: How Dangerous Is Oil Field Work?
Dozens of Accidents at BP Oil Fields in Alaska
In 2017 alone, at least 27 accidents occurred at BP’s oil and gas operations in Alaska, including 5 that risked the lives of dozens of workers. One such incident happened on September 10, when 2 workers responding to faulty equipment inside a building at a drill site accidentally triggered a leak of 1,200 kilograms of gas. Fortunately, the employees managed to escape uninjured; however, it had the potential to be a deadly explosion.
“If there had been an ignition source, we might have lost colleagues,” said BP Alaska President Janet Weiss. “We must change now; we must have a reset."
'Equipment Accident' Kills Alaska Oil Field Worker
The death of a 36-year-old man who died at a North Slope oil field in December 2018 was caused by an “equipment accident," according to The North Slope Borough Police Department. Shawn Huber was pronounced dead at 3:40 a.m. after the incident at the Milne Point oil field. His death was the first workplace fatality to occur on North Slope oil fields since 2012, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Huber worked for Kuukpik Drilling, a contractor for Hilcorp Alaska, the field’s operator. The company said Huber worked as a floor hand and had been with the company since July 2016, also serving as a driller and toolpusher.
Arctic Refuge Drilling Controversy
Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been an ongoing source of controversy for decades in the United States. Republicans have attempted to pass legislation that would allow for drilling in ANWR nearly 50 times, finally being successful with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
ANWR comprises nearly 20 million acres of the north coast of Alaska. The refuge is located between the Beaufort Sea to the north, the Brooks Range to the south, and Prudhoe Bay to the west. It is the largest protected wilderness in the U.S. and was created in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Section 1002 of ANILCA deferred a decision on the management of oil exploration and development of 1.5 million acres in the coastal plain, known as the "1002 area."
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. Exxon Valdez was an oil supertanker owned by Exxon which was on its way to Long Beach, CA., when it hit the Bligh Reef 1.5 miles west of Tatitlek, Alaska, and spilled 10.8 million US gallons of crude oil over the next few days.
The Exxon Valdez spill is the second largest in U.S. waters, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in terms of the volume of oil released.
Workers' Compensation Claims in Oil Field Accidents
If you were the victim of an oilfield accident, you should contact an experienced oilfield accident attorney immediately. Even if you think your injuries were mild, severe health complications could arise in the future.
Your employer’s own negligence could even be to blame. Or the injury could have been caused by defective industrial equipment. In any of these scenarios, you’ll get better results with a skilled oil field injury lawyer on your side.
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Get a Free Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Alaska Oil Field Accident and Injury Lawyers
The personal injury lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP have experience dealing with the rights of American oilfield workers, and we are one of the only firms willing to handle oilfield workplace accidents throughout the entire United States.
Again, if you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an oilfield accident, you should contact our oil field accident lawyers immediately by using the form below or calling our law firm toll-free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600 to schedule a free case review and legal options.
Clients may be able to recover fair compensation for medical expenses from an oil company in a lawsuit and a personal injury lawyer can help.