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Vol. 15, No. 28 Week of July 11, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

BP delays Liberty drilling to 2011, citing expected plan reviews

BP Exploration (Alaska) will not drill its first Liberty well this year.

The company plans to develop the field, offshore the North Slope in the Beaufort Sea west of Prudhoe Bay, with ultra-extended reach wells from the Endicott satellite drilling island.

The delay is in response to recent statements by federal and state agencies that they will seek a review of the project, BP spokesman Steve Rinehart told Petroleum News in a July 7 e-mail.

“The details and timing of those reviews are not yet clear,” Rinehart said.

“If the government seeks additional review of the project, we will of course cooperate,” he said.

Rinehart said BP wants to make sure all questions are addressed, “and we don’t want a firm or announced drilling schedule to impede a full process.”

He said BP had hoped to begin drilling the first well at Liberty by the end of this year, but “it has become clear it will likely be next year before we begin.”

“We will take our time and work safely,” he said.

There is no firm date for drilling, Rinehart said, but first production from the field is anticipated next year.

Questions follow Gulf disaster

Questions were raised about the Liberty project, where drilling was earlier slated to begin this fall, following the explosion of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon April 20 at BP’s Macondo Gulf of Mexico prospect, with 11 dead and what is now described as the Gulf’s largest oil spill reaching shore.

The 100 million barrel Liberty field is in the Beaufort Sea, some 15 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. Liberty’s drilling rig is on an extension — completed last year — to the existing Endicott satellite drilling island.

The field was discovered in 1997 and the original plan for Liberty was to duplicate what was done at Northstar, another field offshore the North Slope in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea — drill from an offshore island and send the oil to shore in a buried subsea pipeline.

The plan BP ultimately settled on, however, uses ultra-extended reach wells from Endicott, some eight miles west of Liberty.

—Kristen Nelson



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