Construction of industrial infrastructure and production of liquid hydrocarbon resources near Point Thomson, AK, by ExxonMobil Corp. and affiliate PTE Pipeline LLC is one step closer with the release of a draft environmental impact study (DEIS) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposed project involves development of gas condensate and possibly oil from the Thomson Sand Reservoir on the northern edge of Alaska’s Arctic Coastal Plain, about 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. The field is estimated to hold about 25% of the North Slope’s discovered gas resources and is critical to the success of an Alaska gas pipeline project, according to ExxonMobil.

While most of the proposed facilities would be located on land, most of the Thomson Sand Reservoir is offshore under state coastal waters. An export pipeline and transportation routes would extend from the Point Thomson facilities to existing facilities to the west.

The Corps of Engineers assessed five alternatives in the DEIS, including ExxonMobil’s proposed action, an alternative calling for the use of coastal production pads and seasonal ice roads, a pair of alternatives which would use inland pads with either gravel access roads or seasonal ice access roads, and a “no action” alternative which was used as a benchmark for comparison.

Each of the action alternatives would have a minimum of five wells capable of either extraction or injection and would include a configuration of infield gathering lines to bring produced fluids from the well pads to a central processing facility, according to the DEIS. An export pipeline would transport natural gas condensate and crude oil to a common carrier export pipeline connecting to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System at Prudhoe Bay.

A 45-day public comment period will begin with publication of the DEIS in the Federal Register Friday (Nov. 18). A final EIS is due to be released next fall, with a record of decision possible by late 2012.

The Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for the environmental impact study of the Point Thomson project because the current development plan would require Corps authorization to fill wetlands and waters under the Rivers and Harbors Act and the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Department of Natural Resources are cooperating agencies in the process.

The DEIS comes more than a year after ExxonMobil Production Co. announced that it had drilled and tested the second of two development wells for the Point Thomson project (see Daily GPI, Oct. 29, 2010). At that time ExxonMobil had invested about $1.5 billion in Point Thomson.

While Alaska resolved litigation of the Point Thomson gas fields with ExxonMobil this summer (see Daily GPI, Aug. 17), “there’s still no public word from the other working interest owners about whether they’re going to join us in a settlement,” Gov. Sean Parnell said recently (see Daily GPI, Oct. 31). According to Parnell, the energy status quo in Alaska “isn’t good enough,” and the industry, regulators, lawmakers and consumers all need to reconsider how the state handles oil and gas.

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