October 15, 2004 --- Vol. 10, No. 90October 2004

BP, MMS, Corps sign MOU for Liberty permit evaluation, NEPA process

Work on BP’s stalled Liberty prospect in the Beaufort Sea east of Prudhoe Bay may be inching forward again.

BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., the Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have signed a memorandum of understanding for permit evaluation and the National Environmental Policy Act process for Liberty. A supplemental environmental impact statement will be prepared as part of the process.

BP drilled the Liberty discovery well in 1997 and has been evaluating development options.

In June 2003, BP told agencies that if it identified a commercially viable option, it would prepare plans and submit permit applications by the end of 2004.

The new schedule, in the MOU, calls for pre-application work to begin in November 2005, with BP providing the agencies with a complete description of the Liberty project, an application in June 2006 and final approvals in late 2007.

The MOU, signed in September, “delineates the roles and responsibilities of the parties” in the development of the supplemental EIS for Liberty, as well as permit evaluation and decision-making for the project, which would develop an offshore oil accumulation between Endicott and Badami. It “covers permit evaluation and the NEPA analysis of environmental impacts of the Liberty Project.”

MMS will review existing NEPA documentation and determine if that documentation “is adequate” for use in the supplemental EIS, and may request that BP supplement existing documentation “if new information is needed.”

Daren Beaudo, BP Exploration (Alaska)’s director of public affairs, said the MOU establishes “the roles and responsibilities of the applicant and agencies and sets forth a business-like schedule, beginning with a permit application in June 2006.

“Other steps forward would be to reach similar agreement with the state of Alaska and North Slope Borough for their permitting processes, to make sure their needs are met.”

Beaudo said “BP is pursuing this in a very deliberate way and through this process we have no appetite for controversy.

“In order to succeed,” he said, “the project has to be wanted by federal, state and local constituencies.”

Editor’s note: See full story in the Oct. 24 edition of Petroleum News.

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