An independent oil company could get more time to drill several exploration wells in the Cook Inlet basin under a plan unveiled this morning.
State oil and gas officials have agreed to let Escopeta Oil move ahead on a proposal to expand the boundaries of an offshore unit to include two additional prospects in the region.
The proposed Kitchen Lights unit would cover the existing Kitchen and Corsair units, and the Northern Lights prospect, making it the largest unit in Cook Inlet.
The proposal is out for public comment through May 6. The state is required to make a final decision about the unit within 60 days after the comment period closes.
If the state approves the expansion, it would mean Escopeta has successfully cleared one hurdle toward exploring in the region, but now faces another in the immediate future.
For more than a year, the three offshore prospects have been part of an ongoing debate between several independent oil companies and state land managers about whether to extend lease deadlines for companies that have failed to meet work commitments.
With another chance from the state, Escopeta now is faced with the task of arranging a drilling program by June 30, 2010, and drilling a well by the end of next year.
The prospects sit in shallow waters south of the village of Tyonek.
See story in April 12 issue, available online at noon, Friday April 10 at www.PetroleumNews.com