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MMS Seeks Companies to Explore in Alaska's Frontier Areas

The Minerals Management Service (MMS), looking to foster exploration in more remote areas of the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf, is assessing industry interest in exploring for oil and gas in Alaska's Chukchi Sea/Hope Basin and Norton Basin.

"These areas have great potential as sources of oil or gas but are largely unexplored," said John Goll, MMS Alaska regional director. "The high economic costs caused by the distance from any infrastructure make these areas challenging to lease. Our objective through this 'special interest' process is to see whether any companies are interested in exploring these frontier areas at this time. If they are, we can design a sale."

The call for information and nominations, published in the Federal Register Feb. 2, asks for comments from industry and the public and requests that industry nominate small, very specific areas where they are willing to commit to exploration. This is the first step in a special 18-month leasing process for federal OCS tracts in frontier areas. MMS is considering offering economic incentives for these areas similar to those offered recently in the Beaufort Sea Sale 186.

MMS will use the information it receives to decide whether to proceed with leasing. If industry does not express an interest at this time, MMS may issue another call this year for Chukchi Sea/Hope Basin. This is the last call for Norton Basin for the current five-year program, which ends in 2007.

Sale 193, Chukchi Sea/Hope Basin, and Sale 188, Norton Basin, are included in the MMS five-year plan and are tentatively scheduled for 2006. Although the areas open for nomination are relatively large, the purpose of this "special-interest" process is to identify and offer small-focused areas in these federal waters where industry has a significant interest in exploration.

In addition to identifying specific blocks to be included in a possible lease sale, MMS also is seeking comments on particular economic terms and conditions of a sale, geologic, environmental, biological, archaeological, or social issues and other information that might bear on potential leasing and development in the area.

Once a company shows interest, MMS will ask them to identify the specific area of interest. It then will proceed with steps to hold a sale with competitive bidding, in the general area of interest.

Nominations and comments must be received by May 10. Comments may be submitted by mail or in person to the regional supervisor for leasing and environment, Alaska OCS region, Minerals Management Service, 3801 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 500, Anchorage, AK 99503, or via e-mail to akeis@mms.gov, or on the MMS web site at http://ocsconnect.mms.gov/pcs-public/.

For more information about the proposed sale or the call, contact MMS Alaska Region at (907) 271-6070, toll-free at (800) 764-2627, or via email at akwebmaster@mms.gov.

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