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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Alaska State Exploration Process (4-AK-a)

Alaska has a high potential for geothermal energy, however, it has remained largely undeveloped. Because of Alaska's volcanic activity and relatively young geography, there are many locations with accessible geothermal energy. Exploration for geothermal energy can be done in a variety of different ways (including both geophysical or seismic and shallow hole testing). The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas regulates the drilling and exploratory activities within the state and a developer must be familiar with their regulations before undertaking any such activities.

State Exploration Process Process

4-AK-a.1 to 4-AK-a.2 - Is Exploration Under a Geothermal Lease or Prospecting Permit

A plan of exploration must be submitted for any exploratory activities under a noncompetitive or competitive leased property in Alaska. If the developer wishes to explore before initiating the leasing process on state lands, they should pursue either a geothermal exploration permit or a geophysical exploration permit.

Before initiating any form of exploration or prospecting activities that would otherwise require a land use permit under 11 AAC 96, the developer must receive an approved plan of exploration from the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) or his designee. The developer should consult with the ADNR’s Division of Oil and Gas (DO&G) before commencing any exploratory actions.

Requirements of the plan of exploration can be found in 11 AAC 84.755 but a plan of exploration should generally include a description of proposed exploratory activities, any drilling or other methods to be used, and the estimated date of drilling. The plan of exploration will be either approved or disapproved within 65 day s after a complete plan of application is received by ADNR (11 AAC 84.755(e)). If the plan is disapproved, the developer will be given reasons for disapproval and in some instances proposed modifications from ADNR which would qualify the plan for approval. The plan should be updated every 2 years after issuance to describe the activities that have been carried out and to demonstrate that the developer has complied with the plan.

4-AK-a.3 to 4-AK-a.4 - Is Geophysical Exploration Used

A Geophysical Exploration Permit is necessary for conducting seismic surveys on state lands and waters. These studies help to identify geological structures with potential accumulations of oil or gas. These permits are a type of land use permit and are sometimes called Seismic Permits. This permit is only needed when the developer wishes to explore on lands that have not yet been leased by the state for geothermal operations.

DO&G provides more information on Geothermal Exploration Permit Applications at their Permit Application Webpage.

4-AK-a.5 to 4-AK-a.6 - Are Shallow Holes Used for Exploration

Geothermal exploration by shallow hole is regulated through 11 AAC 87.030. These heat flow or temperature gradient exploratory drilling operations may not exceed 1500 feet in depth.

4-AK-a.7 - No Permit Needed; Continue with Project

If there is no exploratory activities being conducted, or the developer is conducting non-invasive exploratory activities which do not require a land use permit under 11 AAC 96 the project may proceed without obtaining a permit. The developer should always check with DO&G or the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to make sure that there are no permits required for the proposed activity.

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(907) 465-3427
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