Production forecast is out: SB 21 is working



For three years in a row, Alaska’s oil fields have been producing more each year. That hasn’t happened since the 1980s.

Since Alaskans voted by referendum to support Senate Bill 21, the oil tax reform bill of 2013, energy companies felt they could invest and get a fair shake from the State, and oil production began increasing as a result.

But last spring, the Walker Administration’s production forecast predicted a catastrophic 12 percent decline for FY 2018 — that’s the current fiscal year. The administration had to walk back its forecast, blaming it on “stale numbers.”

The Department of Revenue also predicted that within 10 years, the pipeline would be carrying less than 350,000 barrels a day, a level at which many experts say the pipeline would struggle to operate.

Instead, there’s been a 2 percent increase, year over year — for three consecutive years. Today, the pipeline is carrying an average of 533,000 barrels a day, some 6,000 barrels more per day than last year.


The 12 percent drop predicted by Walker, and the 2 percent increase in actual production — for a whopping 14 percent swing in projected output — shows that the Departments of Natural Resources and Revenue are still struggling to produce their own forecasts, which used to be done by a third party contractor.

It also may show that the Administration is willing to present fake numbers to lawmakers and the public in order to create a fake fiscal crisis that would convince legislators to enact one or more of the governor’s tax proposals.

“You can’t ask for taxes if the people don’t believe you. Once people figure it out, you have a hard time restoring crediblity.” – Tuckerman Babcock, chair of the Alaska Republican Party.

Under the old ACES tax regime, implemented during the Palin Administration, production was dropping more than 7 percent per year.

Today, the long-term declines have given way to actual increases. Much of the increased production this year is coming from Caelus, Hilcorp, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Exxon.

Hilcorp and Caelus came into the state, in part, to take part in the tax credit program. Hilcorp started in Alaska with the Cook Inlet Recovery Act, and did well enough that it purchased several fields on the North Slope and is now the poster child for how tax credits worked to increase production.

Caelus is still waiting for its credits to be paid.


Armstrong Oil and Gas earlier this year predicted it has found 1.2 billion barrels of light crude, which may be the largest onshore discovery in America for the past 30 years.

The field is located in a prospect called Horseshoe, near the North Slope village of Nuiqsut and production could start in 2021 with 120,000 barrels a day, according to Plattes Analytics.

Caelus Energy has a huge find at Smith Bay on the North Slope.

Because of the conservative nature of the oil forecasts, only a fraction of those finds is included in the state’s prediction, which bodes well for production stability on the North Slope.

“The voters got it right with SB 21,” said one oil analyst, who has worked with oil tax legislation for several years. “Now if the state would pay its tax credits and get the hell outta the way, you would see a huge spike in production.”


  1. Nice article but fails to mention negative cash flow due to tax credits exceeding revenue. At least under ACES there was a 5% floor with no tax credits. With SB 21 the 5% floor can be and has been dropped for tax credits.

  2. Welching Walker Won’t… pay on the credits, or our PFD. Get over it William. FILL the pipe AND cut the budget – inefficiencies and as needed, staff (like your chef for starters). Suzanne, could you do a piece on actual revenue & expenditures by the State for the last ten years – with a graph also showing oil production… I suspect that Wild Bill is lying to us about declining revenue – unless of course he’s talking about a decline in revenue available compared to what he WANTS. Hey, it’s FUN to spend other people’s money… Margaret Thatcher’s dictum: “Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money to spend.” Let SB21 work – pay Caelus and all the other owed credits, and watch the revenue climb to exceed what’s owed on the credits.

  3. How about a piece on when the fact that a bunch of the projects that are increasing production from the north slope now had been in planning under aces and that would have gone ahead without S.B. 21 . That these new projects had been in planning for years before SB 21. That changes made in Washington lead to some of this increased production also. Just look into the Public records filed with the Sec for these publicly traded companies. Of course the oil companies would hold Alaska hostage if they thought they could squeeze a bit more profit from us. I bet we would see lots of growth in any industry if you pay these huge tax credits etc. Why does a multi-billion dollar industry need subsidies? This money would have been better used to help develop other industries in Alaska. We can make things here from our resources and ship out goods rather then resources, every day the state has empty shipping containers and trucks leaving. By diversifying the economy the state would be creating economic security instead we are still hostage to oil production and the theft of your natural resources. The state should stop picking winners and lossers and let the free market do its job, plenty of other ways to increase oil production without tax credits etc..

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