Hawaii & Alaska
An ice bridge crosses the Colville River (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Companies stretch frozen roads across Alaska’s North Slope as hunt for oil ramps up

Specialized vehicles with rubber, tank-like tracks will build more than 600 miles of ice and snow roads across the North Slope this winter, punching open paths to usher drilling rigs to exploration sites and village residents to cities.

The construction of the temporary roads, frozen thoroughfares that melt in May, is having the busiest season in the oil patch since petroleum prices crashed in 2014, said Melissa Head, who runs the state’s ice-road permitting office.

“In terms of the number of projects, this is the busiest year we’ve had since the downturn,” Head said.

The work, already underway in some areas, signals the improving fortunes of a vital Alaska industry. State officials told lawmakers in January that North Slope drilling activity is the strongest in two decades, as oil companies target new opportunities following recent discoveries.

[State says North Slope oil and gas activity is at its highest level in 20 years]

In a separate effort, the North Slope Borough plans to connect four remote communities by snow road to the state’s highway system, expanding last year’s program, officials said.

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