Price of N. Slope oil hits milestone - $70 a barrel

Alaska producing $60 million worth of oil per day at current price

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2006

ANCHORAGE - The price of North Slope crude passed another milestone - topping $70 a barrel for the first time - in rising prices that are swelling state coffers.

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North Slope crude for delivery to West Coast refineries settled Wednesday at $70.37, up 82 cents from Tuesday's close.

The upward motion in oil prices is being brought about by a number of factors, including the nuclear issue with major Mideast oil producer Iran, militant attacks in Nigeria, and worries that oil suppliers can't meet global demand.

The higher prices are flooding state coffers with unexpected tax and royalty riches.

Alaska oil has been on an incredible hot streak since May 14, 2004, when it closed above $40 a barrel for the first time. Five months later, it topped $50.

On Aug. 5 last year, it cracked $60. Now, it's north of $70.

By comparison, North Slope oil averaged $26.81 a barrel from 1996 through 2005.

Michael Williams, chief economist in the Alaska Department of Revenue and a researcher on Daniel Yergin's Pulitzer-winning oil history, "The Prize," said the high prices do not mean the world is running out of oil.

"No, not a chance," he said. Rather, it's the perception in the market that oil supplies are tight and that geopolitics might disrupt shipments that continues to elevate oil prices.

While the North Slope oil fields are being drawn down, Alaska continues to be a major producer, sending about 850,000 barrels a day down the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. That's about $60 million worth of oil per day at Wednesday's price.

State oil revenue averaged $1.6 billion a year from 1992 through 2003 but has taken a sharp rise since then to more than $3.5 billion this year.

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