The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management today published a draft version of its revised SEIS, or supplementary environmental impact statement, for the Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193, held in 2008, in which Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and other companies bought leases. The rework of the document followed an order by the federal District Court in Alaska in an appeal against the legality of the environmental impact statement for the sale, and hence against the legality of the sale itself. Leases sold in the sale are currently suspended, with exploration activities prohibited until the appeal is resolved.
The new SEIS affirms the holding of the lease sale as the preferred action, based on an analysis of potential oil and gas exploration activities in the Chukchi Sea and on an analysis of the potential impacts of those activities on the Chukchi Sea environment. If this preferred action translates into a new decision, confirming the original decision to hold the lease sale, it will presumably be possible for Shell and others to continue with their exploration projects.
BOEM says that it will publish a notice of availability for the SEIS in the Federal Register on Nov. 7, an action that will trigger a 45-day public comment period for the document.
The District Court ordered the rework of the environmental analysis for the lease sale because it upheld a criticism that the Department of the Interior had underestimated the level of industrial activity that might result from the sale. The agency had proposed that the sale might result in a single oilfield development with a potential output of 1 billion barrels of oil. The revised analysis in the new SEIS assumes oil production in the range of 4 billion to 4.3 billion barrels, with the installation of eight oil platforms and the drilling of 30 to 40 exploration and delineation wells, and 400 to 457 production wells.
"In the analysis released today, BOEM used a new exploration and development scenario to evaluate the potential environmental effects of oil and gas activities associated with Lease Sale 193," said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. "We look forward to receiving additional public input as we continue to take a balanced approach to the safe and responsible energy development in the region."
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in Nov. 9 issue, available online Friday, Nov. 7, at www.PetroleumNews.com.