September 24, 2002 --- Vol. 8, No. 99September 2002

State studies road to NPR-A

The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the North Slope Borough are looking at two possible routes for an all-season road tying the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska into the state road system.

The new industrial road, part of a developing state transportation plan being studied by planners, would cross the Colville River, creating a new staging area for westward exploration work by Alaska's oil industry.

"Ice road seasons are shrinking, yet the oil industry is trying to extend into NPR-A, and it's a tough show for them," said Mike McKinnon, senior planner at DOT&PF. "We're wondering if this kind of road would both assist development and bring things on-line earlier."

One route being considered would come off the existing oil field road network, probably around the Tarn development, McKinnon said. That road would extend west across the Colville. Total length would be 18 miles.

The other route, about 70 miles long, would be built independent of existing North Slope road infrastructure. “It follows decent (road building) terrain, somewhere from Nuiqsut east and south,” McKinnon said.

That route would intersect the Dalton Highway roughly 40 miles south of Deadhorse. “We may come back and look at other types of connections that are further north,” McKinnon said.

DOT&PF hopes to produce a draft plan for this road project proposal in March 2003, with a final plan out later that year. Should funds be secured for such a project, construction would be several years in the future, McKinnon said.

In a separate construction project, villagers from Nuiqsut could gain summer road access to the Colville River under a Bureau of Indian Affairs road project. An existing gravel road leading east out of town would be extended to the river, providing a boat launch and possible barge landing site.

The North Slope industrial road idea came about during talks with oil companies, Nuiqsut villagers and research in developing the Northwest Alaska Transportation Plan, McKinnon said. “We saw that, while mining and coal is not going fast in any particular direction, oil and gas — especially NPR-A — has some potential,” McKinnon said. “Based on the revenue source we get out of oil as a state, that kind of investment might make sense.”

Memorandum of agreement signed for Point Thomson permitting

Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles told the Alaska Support Industry Alliance annual meeting in Anchorage last night that the state signed a memorandum of understanding with ExxonMobil for streamlined permitting at Point Thomson earlier in the day. He said he expected a MOU with ConocoPhillips for Alpine expansion within a few days.

Knowles said Dick LeFebvre has been selected state manager for the Point Thomson project.

The MOU establishes a new process for handling the state permitting of large-scale oil and gas developments such as that proposed at Point Thomson, the state said in a Sept. 24 statement, and is modeled after an existing state process used to permit the Fort Knox gold mine near Fairbanks and currently in use to help develop the Pogo gold mine near Delta.

The MOU establishes the terms by which ExxonMobil will reimburse the state for costs incurred in reviewing the Point Thomson gas cycling project, expected to produce 75,000 barrels of gas condensate per day at its peak.

LeFebvre worked as a senior land manager for DNR from 1976 until his retirement last year. He held the position of deputy director of lands and most recently served nine years as the large-mine coordinator leading the successful state permitting of several major mines including Fort Knox, True North and Greens Creek.

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