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Vol. 23, No.36 Week of September 09, 2018
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Final SEIS is issued

BLM supports Conoco plan for Greater Mooses Tooth 2 development in NPR-A

Alan Bailey

Petroleum News

The federal Bureau of Land Management has published a final supplementary environmental impact statement for ConocoPhillips’ Greater Mooses Tooth 2 development in the northeastern National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Essentially, the SEIS has as its preferred option ConocoPhillips’ plan to build a 14-acre drill pad that could host up to 48 wells, to operate, in effect, as a satellite of the Alpine oil field in the Colville River Delta to the east - produced fluids would be transported by pipeline via the Greater Mooses Tooth 1 pad to the Alpine central processing facility.

ConocoPhillips has previously said that it anticipates production rates in the range of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels per day from the project, and that the project will cost around $1.5 billion.

The SEIS supplements the EIS published in 2004 for ConocoPhillips’ plan for the development of Alpine satellite fields. The SEIS also tiers onto an EIS for BLM’s NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan, published in 2013. The Integrated Activity Plan specifies which areas within the NPR-A are open for oil and gas development.

BLM will prepare a record of decision for the GMT-2 development once the final SEIS has been announced in the Federal Register for at least 30 days.

Impacts on surface resources

The SEIS says that the impacts of the GMT-2 development on surface resources, in particular subsistence resources, have been key issues for consideration. In terms of subsistence impacts, the proximity of the village of Nuiqsut to the development site is of particular significance. Potential restrictions in access to subsistence hunting and potential changes in land use by resources such as caribou are concerns.

An analysis of subsistence impacts found that the GMT-2 project “may significantly restrict subsistence activities for the village of Nuiqsut, and the cumulative effects of GMT-2 and other developments on the North Slope may significantly restrict subsistence activities for the villages of Nuiqsut, Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk and Utqiagvik,” the SEIS says.

However, the SEIS also considered the potential economic benefits to Alaska Native communities from the development, as well as a range of other possible impacts, including impacts on global climate change, on water quality and on air quality.

Mitigation against adverse impacts includes ConocoPhillips’ commitment to use existing lease stipulations for the Greater Mooses Tooth unit. The company supports subsistence activities through financial contributions and has incorporated features, such as subsistence pullouts on access roads, into its design for the project, the SEIS says. However, the company has requested two deviations from stipulations in the Integrated Activity Plan: The deviations relate to the distances of facilities from water bodies and the distances between pipelines and roads. BLM will rule on the deviation requests in its record of decision for the SEIS.

Evolving plan

The plan for the GMT-2 project has changed somewhat, since the initial development concept was published in 2004 in the EIS for ConocoPhillips’ Alpine satellite development plan. The development involves an oil accumulation discovered in Alpine sandstones, in particular by the Spark and Rendezvous exploration wells. Initially, the idea was to develop the oil from a 9.1-acre pad accessed by a 6.3-mile gravel road. In 2014, based on updated reservoir information, the proposed pad location was moved 3.2 miles to the south. This, however, would have placed the pad in the Colville River Special Area, an area of particular environmental sensitivity. Consequently, the proposed pad location was moved again, to a location that would be acceptable from an oil production perspective while also mitigating environmental impacts.

The evolution of the development plan also involved an increase in the pad size to 14 acres and an increase in the planned number of development wells from 20 to 48. The required access road length increased to 8.2 miles, and the development requires a pipeline system 8.6 miles in length. No new bridges are required. Gravel for the project will come from an Arctic Slope Regional Corp. gravel mine. The planned pad will be located entirely on federally managed land. The proposed pipeline and road corridors cross both federally managed land and land owned by Kuukpik Corp., the Native village corporation of Nuiqsut.

A pipeline segment between the GMT-2 and GMT-1 pads will have vertical support members carrying a 20-inch produced fluids pipeline, a 14-inch injection water pipeline, a 6-inch gas pipeline, an 8-inch miscible injectant pipeline, and power and fiber optic cables. The support members will have space for an additional 24-inch pipeline, the SEIS says. Pipelines required for GMT-2 would be placed on existing vertical support members that carry pipelines from GMT-1 to the Alpine processing facilities.

ConocoPhillips has proposed two alternative development schedules for the project, one starting in the fourth quarter of 2018 and the other starting in the fourth quarter of 2019. Both would see construction completed in the fourth quarter of 2021, at which point oil production would begin. Construction would take place during the winter, making use of seasonal ice roads and ice pads.

Alternatives considered

In addition to its preferred alternative, BLM considered two other alternatives: an alternative involving a different road alignment, and a roadless alternative that would have more facilities on site and, thus, involve more limited site access. The agency also considered a “no action” alternative but commented that BLM cannot deny permits to drill, associated with appropriate mitigation measures, on land leased for oil and gas activities.

BLM considered but rejected as impractical or uneconomic some other possibilities including the use of buried pipelines, a roadless development with seasonal drilling, and the establishment of an operations center in the village of Nuiqsut.

Reactions to the SEIS

“(Interior) Secretary Zinke made a commitment last year to ‘jump-start’ Alaskan energy and this project is a great example of the Department of the Interior following through on that,” said Joe Balash, Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, in response to the publication of the SEIS. “Oil and gas development in the NPR-A is important to meeting our nation’s energy needs and this analysis provides a responsible path forward in balance with resource protections. And, throughout the process we are proud of our efforts of involving the people most affected by development activities on the North Slope of Alaska.”

“This is great news for Alaska and our nation,” said U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “This new development, which will produce an estimated 30,000 barrels per day, will help refill the trans-Alaska pipeline and provide Alaskans with good jobs. Development in the NPR-A also benefits our nation by increasing our energy security, keeping energy affordable, and reducing the federal deficit, so I appreciate the work the Department of the Interior has done to advance this project.”

“I want to thank Secretary Zinke and BLM for keeping their promise to make Alaska a leader in our country’s energy production,” said Congressman Don Young, R-Alaska. “Responsible development of Greater Mooses Tooth will help keep our North Slope active and will bring much needed jobs to the local communities. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Zinke and the rest of the Department of the Interior to ensure Alaska energy production remains strong.”

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