The scoping starts
BLM seeks public comments for EIS for ConocoPhillips NPR-A development
The federal Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comments on the scope of an environmental impact statement for ConocoPhillips’ proposed development of the Willow oil prospect in the northeastern NPR-A, the agency announced Aug. 7. BLM plans to hold public meetings in the communities of Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Nuiqsut and Utqiagvik, and in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Comments are required by Sept. 6.
Master development planThe EIS preparation relates to a master development plan for Willow that ConocoPhillips filed in May. The intent of the master plan was to trigger the EIS development, enabling a single EIS to be prepared to consider the environmental impacts of the Willow project. Although the plan specifies ConocoPhillips’ anticipated means of developing the Willow oil field, the company has yet to prepare a full-scale development plan or to make a final investment decision for the project.
“Analyzing the proposed Willow prospect in a single MDP/EIS will result in a quicker and more efficient process for the approval of applications for permits to drill,” said BLM Acting State Director Karen Mouritsen. “Public input on this project is important and we look forward to hosting public meetings and listening to the comments people may have.”
BLM says that the project will include the construction, operation and maintenance of a central processing facility; the construction of up to five well pads, with up to 50 wells on each pad; roads for field access and in-field transportation; an airstrip; and a system of pipelines. Gravel for the project would come from a gravel mine on BLM land. Also to be considered within the EIS will be a proposal to construct a temporary island in the Beaufort Sea to facilitate the delivery of modules for the project, BLM says.
Standalone facilitiesOf particular note in the master development plan is the proposal to construct a standalone processing facility, a proposal linked to an increase to ConocoPhillips’ originally published estimate for the scale of the field.
ConocoPhillips now says that Willow holds an estimated 400-750 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalent, with peak production rates of perhaps 100,000 barrels per day. The development will likely cost $2 billion to $3 billion over four to five years after a final investment decision is made, with first oil flowing from the field by 2024 to 2025. A further $2 billion to $3 billion would then be spent on cumulative drilling over multiple years to sustain production, ConocoPhillips has said.
The Willow discovery involves reservoir sands in the Nanushuk formation, in a near identical geologic setting to the huge Pikka/Horseshoe field that Oil Search plans to develop, east of the Colville River.