The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confirmed that it has received a request by a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a prospect within the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A), which could open the area to more oil and gas development over the next decade.
ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. (CPAI) earlier this month requested that BLM begin the EIS process in a letter to BLM’s Karen Mouritsen, acting state director for Alaska. The subsidiary said the environmental review was necessary before work at the Willow discovery, which ConocoPhillips and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. announced in early 2017, could proceed under a master development plan (MDP).
"The proposed purpose and need of the Willow MDP is to construct drill sites, access and infield roads, pipelines, a processing plant and other facilities to support production and transportation of petroleum from federal oil and gas leases in the NPR-A while protecting important surface resources," wrote ConocoPhillips’ Lisa Bruner, vice president for North Slope operations and development.
Bruner said CPAI understood that a notice of intent to initiate an EIS could be published in the Federal Register this July. Meanwhile, BLM spokeswoman Lesli Ellis-Wouters told NGI that while the bureau currently does not have "a project lead on hand for the new environmental review, [we] have one identified and they will be starting in Alaska in early June."
According to CPAI, the infrastructure components of the Willow MDP would be constructed over a 10-year period. The subsidiary would be allowed to submit permit applications for up to five drill sites, each of which would be designed to accommodate 50-60 wells per pad. Construction of the Willow Central processing plant would be needed because tying the Willow prospect to ConocoPhillips' existing processing facility at Alpine, AK, "is not feasible...due to geographical and technical constraints."
CPAI plans to build an infrastructure pad and a 5,400-foot by 100-foot gravel airstrip near the processing plant, providing year-round access. Modules weighing 3,000 tons or more would be offloaded from barges at a temporary module transfer location at Harrison Bay, near Atigaru Point, which is on the coast of the Beaufort Sea. The heavier modules would be delivered to the Willow area via offshore and onshore ice roads.
When the Willow prospect was first announced, ConocoPhillips and Anadarko said the prospect could yield up to 100,000 b/d. At the time, two test wells targeting the Brookian Nanushuk formation had struck oil. ConocoPhillips said it would acquire Anadarko's stake in the prospect last February as part of a $400 million agreement for bolt-on leases in Alaska.
Last month, ConocoPhillips said that it had drilled six wells in Alaska's western North Slope, including three Willow appraisal wells. The company had originally planned to drill just five wells, including two appraisal wells at Willow.
ConocoPhillips had targeted 2023 for initial commercial production from Willow, pending permit approvals and project economics.