November 12, 2004 --- Vol. 10, No. 103November 2004

Interior Department issues Alpine satellite record of decision

Rebecca Watson, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, signed the Alpine satellites development plan record of decision today, authorizing the first commercial oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The Bureau of Land Management said the development on land it manages is part of ConocoPhillips Alaska’s proposed expansion of its existing Alpine oil field just to the east of NPR-A. In addition to the two production pads authorized by Interior, the expansion would include three pads outside of BLM jurisdiction.

BLM said the record of decision “modifies the company’s original proposal in order to offer even greater protection to wildlife and sensitive habitats.” Changes include relocating portions of proposed gravel access roads and pipelines outside a three-mile setback for Fish Creek, raising pipelines an additional two feet (to seven feet) to assist migrating caribou, and moving power lines from separate poles to cable trays mounted on pipeline supports.

“We made a number of positive adjustments to reflect considerations raised by the public and agencies,” Henri Bisson, BLM’s Alaska state director, said in a statement. “Several key changes responded specifically to concerns about subsistence issues raised by residents of Nuiqsut,” he said, adding, “It is also important to note that what we are authorizing is consistent with our 1998 leasing plan for this area.”

The two pads and associated roads and pipelines approved by Watson will be the first commercial oil and gas development in NPR-A and BLM said production from the first of the five pads could be online by 2006.

ConocoPhillips also needs permits from state and federal agencies for the Alpine satellite development, and the company has not yet approved project development. ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Knox told Petroleum News Nov. 11 in response to a general question on Alpine satellite development that the company will not sanction the project until it has all of the permits and said it still lacks a key permit from the Corps of Engineers and is working with that agency to address its concerns.

Editor’s note: See full story in the Nov. 21 edition of Petroleum News.

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