ConocoPhillips launches drilling at a North Slope oil field

ConocoPhillips Alaska has launched drilling to unlock a stubborn pool of slow-moving viscous oil at a new site on the North Slope, the company announced Friday with a tweet.

"We've got NEWS (1H)!" the oil giant said on Twitter, in a reference to the field's unusual name.

The so-called 1H NEWS project was delayed last year after oil prices plunged.

But company officials in July told Wall Street investors the $460 million project was back on track. Oil should be flowing by year's end, said Al Hirshberg, a ConocoPhillips executive vice president.

The field is expected to produce about 8,000 barrels of oil daily, adding to the 530,000 barrels of oil produced daily on the Slope so far this year.

Viscous oil and its stickier cousin heavy oil, which flows like molasses, are considered some of the Slope's giant untapped opportunities. Companies have focused on the easier-flowing, and cheaper-to-produce, light oil that dominates Alaska production.

1H NEWS is part of the Kuparuk River unit, one of the largest fields in the U.S. but much smaller than neighboring Prudhoe Bay.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or