On Thursday, the Obama administration approved ConocoPhillips’ request to build production facilities at a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska, the first of its kind. The authorization was issued by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and allows ConocoPhillips to fabricate an 11.8-acre drilling pad along with related infrastructure inside the reserve. The permit allows the company to conduct this work over a period of two years.
ConocoPhillips said in a statement, “this is good news for ConocoPhillips. We are pleased that BLM has issued the [drilling permit] and the ROW for Greater Mooses Tooth No. 1, and we are seeking approval for funding.”
The drilling site is inside the National Petroleum Reserve, a 23 million acre region located in Northwest Alaska about the size of Indiana. 90 years ago, the area was recognized for its oil and gas potential.
The project offers putting additional oil into the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System that is designed to transport 2 million barrels per day. Currently, the pipeline transports only about a quarter of its capacity due to regional declines in production.
“I’m proud of this collaborative effort to ensure thoughtful, balanced, and responsible development in the NPR-A,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “(It) will provide additional economic security for Alaskans as well as a new source of oil for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.”
As part of the deal, the BLM asked that ConocoPhillips pay into a mitigation fund going to help develop conservation and restoration work in the area. However, environmentalists have stated that the funds will not compensate for the damage done to the surrounding tundra and wetlands.
“Its impacts will be felt throughout the entire reserve and surrounding communities,” said Lisa Donahey of the Alaskan Wilderness League. “Moving forward, the need to mitigate the inevitable consequences of drilling in a world-class landscape like the reserve must be addressed.
Currently, there is no word on if whether this will affect ConocoPhillips’ plans to go through with the company’s related Greater Mooses Tooth project. This project includes drilling up to 33 wells in the National Petroleum Reserve.
Lilia Fabry is the owner of MPP Freelance, a writing and web design firm in Houston, TX.