B.C. delegation visits Cook Inlet
Petroleum News editor-in-chief
A 14-member fact-finding delegation from British Columbia was in the Cook Inlet area July 28-30, meeting officials and getting a first-hand look at offshore oil and gas development.
The delegation was invited to Cook Inlet by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and Mayor Dale Bagley accompanied the delegation on its tour, which included meetings with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which manages outer continental shelf waters in lower Cook Inlet, with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas, which manages oil and gas leasing in state waters, and with the University of Alaska Mining and Petroleum Training Service to discuss workforce training and development programs.
The delegation was led by British Columbia Minister for Energy and Mines, Richard Neufeld, and included representatives of the provincial government, coastal communities and First Nations leaders. The group flew over the Cook Inlet platforms and onshore facilities in a DC-3, spent half a day in a work session with members of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and then split up to tour Forest Oil’s Osprey platform, the newest platform in Cook Inlet, XTO Energy’s Platform A, the oldest platform in the inlet, and the Nikiski industrial facilities. The group also met with representatives of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and ASRC Energy to hear about oil and gas development on the North Slope.
Why the interest?The delegates talked to Petroleum News about their trip in Anchorage July 30.
Tom Happynook Port Alberni, of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, said there is a decades-old moratorium against offshore British Columbia oil and gas development, but the new provincial government which took office in 2001 had included lifting the moratorium as part of its platform.
Happynook said the provincial government has been bringing together stakeholders and the invitation to Cook Inlet provided an opportunity to meet with people who have been dealing with oil and gas development for 40-45 years. “We came up to do a fact-finding mission, to meet with people who have had 40 or 45 years experience in the industry and to learn a little bit about the technology to make sure that the technological advancements have been made that would provide us with a level of comfort that there would indeed be no significant impacts to the environment.”
Happynook said one of the things the group heard was that strong legislation needed to be developed that “created guidance and control over the development of the industry.” Gary Korpan, mayor of the City of Nanaimo, said the group was amazed at both the candor and the wide range of information available from both industry and different government agencies.
A different view of seismicThe visit to Cook Inlet was a chance to see and ask about current technology. The group had “some very significant questions” about seismic, Happynook said, and found seismic “is not really a concern up here.”
Gary Korpan, mayor of the City of Nanaimo, said that’s a “classic example” of the situation in British Columbia. People think of what they’ve seen in the past, such as old photos of seismic work in the Mackenzie Valley — “whole areas would seem to be exploding with the seismic.” Modern technology, he said, makes seismic almost benign. Cleanup requirements, safety design, backup systems to prevent problems, modern technology on equipment, training — it’s “incredibly more reassuring now that we’ve got the knowledge that that exists, and it works and it still allows for a profitable industry.”
Chief Tom Nelson of the Quatsino Band Council said that the British Columbia offshore is more exposed to bad weather than Cook Inlet. “You have tide and ice and we’ve got wind and waves,” he said. Having seen Cook Inlet platforms, Nelson said, “I have a different outlook now.”
“It’s because we have these preconceived images impregnated in our minds that have been brought forward by environmental NGOs and other people like that,” Happynook said. “Like Gary (Korpan) said, the seismic in the past was actually setting off large charges of explosives. Well, those are the images that we still have. We don’t have the images of the new technology that’s available now.”
Seeing the industry, and the people who are dealing with the industry today, Korpan said, “the people who live here who are concerned about where they live are not going to allow the industry to do something that’s out of hand. And yet they are embracing the industry because things have indeed changed.”