Interior Department approves drilling plan at Alaska oil reserve

The two new oil pads would be developed on land leased by ConocoPhillips and if the sites are built, they would be the first commercial oil development in the reserve.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – The Interior Department has approved ConocoPhillips’ plan to build two oil production pads in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, but the company has not yet decided to go forward with the drilling.

The two new pads would be developed on land leased by the company in 1999 on the eastern edge of NPR-A, southwest of the existing Alpine oil field. Oil was discovered at the sites in 2001.

If the sites are built, it would be the first commercial oil development in the reserve, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Rebecca Watson, the assistant secretary for land and minerals management, approved the plan for the two pads, along with the accompanying pipelines and power lines. Ed Bovy, spokesman for the BLM’s Anchorage office, said drilling could begin by next winter. Oil from the Alpine Satellites could reach the trans-Alaska pipeline by the summer of 2008.

Natalie Knox, spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips in Alaska, said the company has not yet made a decision to develop the two pads and other Alpine satellites. That decision depends on the outcome of another permit review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on all five pads, she said.

The reserve covers about 23.5 million acres of public land west of Prudhoe Bay. Estimates of oil reserves in the NPR-A range from about 6 billion to 13 billion barrels of oil.

In 1999 and 2002, the Interior Department sold leases in the northeastern part of the reserve to oil companies. Another sale in June leased out 1.5 million acres in the northwest part of the reserve.

Author: associated press

News Service: associated press

URL: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20041115-1128-wst-npradrilling.html