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Vol. 16, No. 3 Week of January 16, 2011
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Corps now 8 months behind on EIS for Point Thomson development

The schedule has slipped again for completing an environmental impact statement on ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson development on Alaska’s eastern North Slope.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of preparing the EIS, tells Petroleum News a draft document is scheduled to be published on June 24 for a 45-day public review and comment period. The “record of decision” is scheduled for signature on March 15, 2012.

This adds two months to a schedule that already had slipped by about six months.

The Corps originally estimated it would have a record of decision by August 2011, but the agency at last report had set a revised target date of Jan. 19, 2012.

ExxonMobil’s application for a Corps wetlands permit triggered the need for an EIS.

Point Thomson is a remote field on the Beaufort Sea coast some 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. Aside from ExxonMobil, major stakeholders include BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.

Located on state acreage, the field is a hugely valuable asset with an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas plus 200 million barrels of condensate.

Two recent wells

Under pressure from the state, which has taken steps to void leases in the field for lack of development, ExxonMobil recently drilled two wells at Point Thomson to kick off a promised $1.3 billion condensate development.

ExxonMobil has pledged to begin producing 10,000 barrels a day of condensate by year-end 2014, but needs the federal permit to develop and operate the Point Thomson production facilities.

Hank Baij, the Point Thomson EIS manager for the Corps, has said part of the reason for the schedule slippage is to allow more time for certain studies and analyses.

One such study is to evaluate noise impacts from Point Thomson construction and operations on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, located just east.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said last October the state might sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which he said was holding up the Point Thomson project with the ANWR noise study. The EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources are “cooperating agencies” on the EIS.

In a Jan. 11 e-mail provided to Petroleum News through the Alaska Corps public affairs office, Baij said regarding the noise study: “The noise study is complete to the draft stage except for some additional information requested of the cooperating agencies.”

—Wesley Loy



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