Big Alaska Oil Find - Tanker To Try Northwest Passage

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Big Alaska Oil Find - Tanker To Try Northwest Passage
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MONTREAL - An oil find in Northeast Alaska, which could prove one of the world's largest petroleum reserves, has spurred once again the centuries-old attempts to open the Northwest Passage.

Three companies, Humble Oil and Refining, Atlantic Richfield and B. P. Exploration (U.S.A.), this week revealed plans to send a 115,000-ton tanker through the passage next summer to test the feasibility of shipping oil from the northern slope of Alaska to east coast ports.

If successful, the venture would mark the first commercial use of the icy waterway that threads 4,500 miles through the Barren Islands of Canada's northern coast on the Arctic Ocean.

Although navigators have sought to open the Northwest Passage since the 16th century, the only vessels to make the trip have been specially equipped icebreakers and other non-commercial ships.

The only port now operating in northern Canada is Churchill, Man., which has a two-month summer shipping season on Hudson Bay before ice again becomes impassable.

D. E. Gullier and McNaughton, petroleum consultants to Humble in Dallas, said the so-called Prudhoe Reserves in Alaska "could develop into a field with recoverable reserves of some 5 billion to 10 billion barrels of oil, which would rate it as one of the largest petroleum accumulations known in the world."

As well as the experiment next summer with the tanker MANHATTAN, which is being specially fitted for the trip, the three companies also have initiated studies of the feasibility of building a pipe line from the Prudhoe area to the U. S. Results of the studies are expected to be released shortly.

M. A. Wright, board chairman of Humble, said in Houston the MANHATTAN test "could result in the establishment of a new commercial shipping route through the Arctic region with broad implications for future Arctic development and international trade."

A spokesman for Humble's sister company, Imperial Oil of Canada Ltd., also a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey, said Imperial was acting as liaison with the Canadian Government in arrangements for the trial in July.

The MANHATTAN, which is being chartered from its American owners, Seatrain Lines Inc., is enroute from Pakistan to Chester, Pa., to undergo modification.


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