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Vol. 25, No.05 Week of February 02, 2020
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Oil patch insider: No limit on IBLA’s ANWR ruling; Oil Search changeover on track

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

The Interior Board of Land Appeals has no time limit to issue its appeal decision on a 25-year-old Arctic National Wildlife Refuge border dispute between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the state of Alaska.

“There is no time limit for the Board to issue a decision on land boundary disputes,” Rachel Levin, communications lead at Interior’s Office of Policy, Management and Budget told Petroleum News in a Jan. 24 email.

“Appeal disposition times vary and depend on multiple factors, including Board resources,” she said.

A tug of war arose in 1965 over a 19,322-acre sliver between the Canning and Staines rivers which was yanked from state land selections by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remapping that alleged the land should be included in the 19,286,722-acre refuge.

The state has never agreed with USFWS, and it has tried to secure the lands for decades. It made a request for priority conveyance of the acreage in 2014. When Interior refused to transfer the lands, the state filed an appeal with IBLA.

“This appeal is under review,” Levin said. “The Board will issue a decision as expeditiously as we can and will post the decision on our website.”

If the IBLA decides in favor of the state, BLM will administer the land transfer, she said.

The acreage - highly prospective for oil and gas - is a high priority area for the state, Marty Parsons, director of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mining, Land and Water, told Petroleum News in January 2019.

Parsons said in 2018 that if the agency’s effort to resolve the dispute was not successful, the next step would be federal court.


Oil Search leadership transition on track

According to Oil Search Ltd.’s Jan. 28 fourth quarter report, plans for the transition of the managing director role from Peter Botten to Keiran Wulff “are progressing well,” with the formal transfer of responsibilities scheduled for Feb. 25.

Bruce Dingeman is taking Wulff’s place as president of Oil Search Alaska.

Also in the quarterly report was the Australia-based company’s capital management status as of Dec. 31. Oil Search had liquidity of US$1.15 billion, comprising US$396.2 million in cash (US$547.3 million at the end of the third quarter) and US$755.7 million in undrawn corporate credit facilities.

During the quarter, the company made net repayments of US$30 million under its revolving credit facilities and made a scheduled Papua New Guinea project finance principal repayment of US$179.9 million.

Oil Search ended the period with US$3.38 billion of debt outstanding, of which US$2.94 billion related to the PNG LNG project finance facility and US$440 million to corporate credit facilities, compared to a total of US$3.59 billion at the end of September.

Regarding capital expenditure, the report said that during fourth quarter, Oil Search spent US$116.3 million on exploration and evaluation expenditure activities. This “primarily related to pre-FEED activities for the Pikka Unit Development, winter drilling program, seismic acquisition and lease acquisitions in Alaska (US$61.4 million), as well as the Gobe Footwall exploration well (US$24.0 million) and pre-FEED activities for LNG expansion (US$17.5 million) in PNG.”

US$10.6 million of exploration costs were expensed, mainly seismic acquisition costs and geological, geophysical and general and administration expenses in PNG and Alaska (4th quarter US$61.4, full year US$539.8 - includes US$450 million Alaska acquisition costs on exercising the Armstrong/GMT option, net of US$70.5 million farm-down proceeds).


Utqiagvik sees first sunrise

Suzanne Downing’s Must Read Alaska recently reminded us that Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow and the northernmost community in America, saw its first sunrise since Nov. 18 on Jan. 23 when at 1:09 p.m. the sun skimmed the horizon for about an hour before setting.

The seat of the North Slope Borough, Utqiagvik, population 4,438, gained 37 minutes more daylight on Jan. 24, and by the end of January will have gone from zero to 147 minutes of daylight in just nine days.

Near the 1893 Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station in Utqiagvik, the Whale Bone Arch symbolizes the community’s relationship with the ocean and whaling. Its Will Rogers and Wiley Post Monument honors the humorist and the pilot, who died together in a 1935 air crash nearby.

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