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MMS Gauges Industry Interest in Cook Inlet Lease Sales

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has issued a request for information (RFI) to gauge the oil and gas industry's interest in two potential "special interest" offshore lease sales for the Cook Inlet Planning Area in Alaska.

"The amount of oil and gas produced in Cook Inlet continues to decline, [but] with changing economic conditions there is renewed interest in finding additional hydrocarbon resources for south central Alaska," which includes Cook Inlet, the MMS said in an RFI published in the Federal Register last Tuesday. The agency estimates that the mean undiscovered technically recoverable resources for the planning area are 1.01 billion bbl of crude oil and condensate and 1.2 Tcf of natural gas.

The RFI seeks to gauge industry interest and whether it is focused on a few offshore blocks or on a larger portion of the planning area. The MMS also has asked tribal, local, state and federal agencies and the general public to comment on whether the agency should proceed with further environmental evaluations of the potential "special interest" sales.

Companies interested in specific lease blocks should identify the blocks in writing to the MMS office in Alaska. "If companies believe a larger area should be considered, they should explicitly explain their interest, including a summary of the geologic and economic information about the larger area," according to the RFI.

If the RFI finds that industry or others do not support a lease sale in the Cook Inlet area, the MMS said it will issue the RFI again in 2009 and yearly thereafter through the five-year leasing plan (2007-2012) until either a sale is held or the current five-year plan expires. However, if sufficient interest is expressed, the Interior agency may recommend that the sale process be continued.

The Cook Inlet Planning Area is located offshore Alaska just south of Kalgin Island and the Barren Islands and continues south through Shelikof Strait to just above the southern tip of Kodiak Island. The area consists of approximately 1,093 whole and partial offshore blocks covering about 5.3 million acres. It extends offshore from three to about 60 nautical miles in water depths ranging from 30 feet to approximately 650 feet.

Only four federal sales have been held in the Cook Inlet Planning area, with the last one occurring in June 2002. One lease sale was scheduled for May 2004, but no bids were submitted. "Over the years there have been 13 exploratory wells drilled on federal leases in Cook Inlet and all have been permanently plugged and abandoned. Two leases from Sale 149 [held in June 1997] are under suspension of operations. Exploration activities for the unit are occurring from onshore," the RFI said.

Responses to the RFI, which should be labeled "Comments on Proposed Special-Interest Sale 211," are due at the MMS by Oct. 6. For more information, contact Cleve Cowles, regional supervisor, Office of Leasing and Environment, Minerals Management Service, Alaska OCS Region, 3801 Centerpoint Dr., Suite 500, Anchorage, AK 99503-5820, or at (907) 334-5233. More information also is available at

In related action, the state of Alaska last Monday announced a partnership to pursue development of a gas pipeline to serve in-state needs, particularly in south-central Alaska (see related story).

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