The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management released the final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project on Feb. 1. The company says the final SEIS “represents a major milestone in the permitting process” that began in 2018.
BLM said it may issue a Record of Decision no sooner than 30 days after the Environmental Protection Agency’s Notice of Availability of the final SEIS is published to the Federal Register. BLM anticipates that the EPA’s notice will be published on Friday, Feb. 3.
Erec Isaacson, president, ConocoPhillips Alaska, said “After nearly five years of rigorous regulatory review and environmental analysis, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is almost complete and should be concluded without delay. ConocoPhillips looks forward to a final record of decision (ROD) and is ready to begin construction immediately after receiving a viable ROD and full authorization from all permitting agencies.”
ConocoPhillips Alaska intends to immediately initiate gravel road construction once all necessary approvals are in place, and then proceed to a final investment decision. Planning is currently in progress and mobilization could start “as soon as February,” the company said.
Additional North Slope construction activities for Willow, which is located in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, will occur throughout the summer and fall. Concurrently, material fabrication will begin in U.S. facilities and the pace of contracting and procurement will increase.
“In the SEIS, the BLM identifies Alternative E as the preferred alternative. Alternative E was developed by the BLM and cooperating agencies with extensive stakeholder input. Under Alternative E, the BLM could authorize three drill sites initially, and potentially one additional drill site in the future. This is a reduction from the five drill sites initially proposed by ConocoPhillips and a reduction of project footprint in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area by more than 40%,” ConocoPhillips said.
The company added that the three core drill sites in Alternative E - BT1, BT2, and BT3 - outlined in BLM’s final SEIS “reflect an integrated design concept and provide a viable path forward for development of our leasehold.”
Job creationThe Willow Project is estimated to produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak and deliver $8 billion to $17 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the state of Alaska and North Slope Borough communities. The project would be built using materials primarily made and sourced in the United States and has the potential to create more than 2,500 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs.
Willow was designed to meet municipal, state and federal land management requirements, building on ConocoPhillips’ five-decade track record of continuous operational and technological improvements in Alaska.
Additionally, federal law requires 50% of lease revenue from NPR-A projects be made available to a unique grant program that offers significant social and environmental justice benefits to Alaska Native communities.
“As a result, we believe Willow will benefit local communities and enhance American energy security while producing oil in an environmentally and socially responsible manner,” said Isaacson.
“We appreciate the strong support for Willow from communities on the North Slope and across the state, as well as from Alaska’s bipartisan congressional delegation,” Isaacson added. “Willow will produce much needed domestic energy while generating substantial public benefits.”
Voice of Arctic IñupiatPetroleum News received several statements from the people of the North Slope, including the Voice of the Arctic Inupiat, a nonprofit organization established in 2015 by the region’s collective Iñupiat leadership to speak with a unified voice on issues impacting the North Slope Iñupiat, their communities, their economy and their culture. Its members include local government, business, tribal and civil society across the North Slope of Alaska.
VOICE’s board unanimously passed a resolution in support of advancing the Willow Project to support the economic well-being of the North Slope Iñupiat.
“Today’s announcement from the Bureau of Land Management inches us closer to a final decision on the future of the Willow Project for Alaska’s North Slope Iñupiat. There is widespread support across Alaska Native communities for this considerately designed development opportunity and the long-term economic stability it offers for the people of Alaska’s remote North Slope,” said Nagruk Harcharek, president of the Voice of Arctic Iñupiat.
“All that remains now is for the Biden administration to fulfill its commitment to our people and region by advancing Willow consistent with project’s minimum requirements as laid out by ConocoPhillips. Further unnecessary reviews or limiting the project to fewer and fewer pads would likely terminate the project, leading to dire implications for our national security, our economy, the self-determination of the Iñupiat people, and for the future of Alaska’s North Slope,” Harcharek said.
“The Willow Project is estimated to generate hundreds of direct jobs and thousands of construction jobs, along with contracting opportunities for Native-owned businesses,” he said.
“BLM estimates that Willow will result in approximately $6 billion from federal royalties and state and local taxes. For North Slope communities, more than $1 billion in property taxes paid to the North Slope Borough would help provide basic services like education, police, fire protection, and more. Willow is also projected to add $2.5 billion to the NPR-A Impact Mitigation Grant Program, supporting social services, youth programs, and more throughout our communities,” Harcharek said.