Vol. 25, No.03 Week of January 19, 2020
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Oil patch insider: ANWR leasing; XCD #8; unusual AGDC testimony; tax ballot & more

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Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

The past week has produced several interesting news stories and blog flashes, including a Washington Post interview with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt explaining why his department has not yet finalized its record of decision to lease parts of the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - because he wants to make sure Interior’s plan can withstand all legal challenges. More on this later.

First, three interesting tidbits, starting with Jeff Landfield’s Alaska Landmine blog on Jan. 12, commenting on a Jan. 9 Alaska Gasline Development Authority board meeting. The meeting, Landfield wrote, was to provide an update on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit application, but it “started off a bit loose” with former AGDA board member Joey Merrick and former president Keith Meyer both testifying at the beginning during public comment.

“Merrick was concerned that AGDA had taken previous work off the website. Meyer said that the current path of the board will not result in a gasline anytime soon. He also said he put together a private group that could take it over. The board did not seem amused,” Landfield wrote.

The second tidbit: Stockhead, an online business news pub “dedicated to connecting investors with emerging ASX-listed companies,” put XCD Energy (ASX:XCD) in its Top 10 biggest oil and gas gainers in the small cap space in December.

XCD Energy, which was No. 8 on the list, “picked up additional oil and gas leases in the highly prospective Nanushuk oil fairway on Alaska’s North Slope in mid-December. The leases are adjacent to and complementary to the company’s existing leases, bringing its total portfolio up to 195,373 acres,” Stockhead wrote.

Dougal Ferguson is XCD’s managing director and oversees the company’s leases in Alaska.

Check out Stockhead’s December list:

The third tidbit was first reported in the Anchorage Daily News, which said the group behind a ballot measure to boost taxes paid by major oil producers in Alaska has gathered enough signatures to put the measure before voters. ADN promised an announcement from the group on Friday, Jan. 17, the day this edition of Petroleum News is released online.

To qualify to put the measure on the 2020 ballot, the group needs just 28,501 registered Alaska voters from at least 30 of the 40 House districts.

More on ANWR leasing

Back to the Jan. 14 Washington Post story on ANWR leasing and its interview with Bernhardt.

“I want to make sure that record of decision is a record that can be well defended,” Bernhardt was quoted as saying. “There have been issues raised during the development … that I want to make sure that I feel very confident that we’ve adequately addressed.”

The Trump administration, the Post wrote, is caught between trying to make its leasing plan “legally ironclad” while still completing the controversial lease sale before the next presidential election. The 2017 budget bill that opened exploration in the 1002 area orders the feds to conduct two lease sales of 400,000 acres each by the end of 2024, at the latest.

Per the Post, Bernhardt’s latest comments are “a change of tone from last year, when the Interior secretary vowed a speedy environmental review and lease sale” in the 1.6 million acre 1002 area that is part of the 19.3 million refuge.

For nearly three years, the Post reported, “environmental groups, Native American tribes and Democratic attorneys general have often prevailed in their legal challenges against the Trump administration’s energy and environmental agenda.”

One of the “leading litigators, the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, says it has won 33 of the 39 lawsuits it has brought against the Trump administration through 2019.”

Bernhardt himself is an attorney, the Post noted

Exploration underway

As reported in a Jan. 9 news bulletin from Petroleum News, exploration is underway on Alaska’s North Slope, with the first company, Oil Search, reporting it spud a well in one of the two prospects it’s drilling this winter.

The Mitquq 1 exploration well was spud on Dec. 24, using Nabors 7ES rig.

The well, which is approximately 5.6 miles from the planned Nanushuk Central Processing Facility location in the Pikka unit, will test Cretaceous Brookian sandstone (Nanushuk) analogues east of the unit for the prospect’s potential as a tie-back to planned Pikka infrastructure.

Secondary targets “may be penetrated to evaluate exploration upside within the Torok, Kuparuk C and Alpine C reservoirs,” the company said.

A sidetrack to an offset location for further reservoir evaluation is a possibility.

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