About 104 square miles of virgin natural gas hunting grounds arebeing thrown open within reach of potential routes for the proposedAlaska pipeline by the Yukon Territory’s second sale in two years.Companies are being given until March 14 to bid on the parcel,which borders on two areas that Anderson Exploration Ltd. scoopedup in the first sale, which was in turn the first one held by theYukon in two decades.

Located in an area called Eagle Plain, near the Arctic Circle,the new offering is 185 miles north of Dawson City and lies besidethe Dempster Highway between the Yukon capital of Whitehorse andInuvik on the Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories. Theprospective drilling area is about 180 miles north of the AlaskaHighway (also known as the Klondike Highway along its Canadianlegs).A 1994 estimate by the National Energy Board, relying onvery limited information from scant exploration activity in thearea, estimated that the Eagle Plain Basin harboured 83.7 Bcf ofnatural gas and 11.1 million barrels of oil. Of 22 wells drilled inthe region since 1960, three successes have earned long-term rightsto hold property as “significant discovery licences” for ChevronCanada Resources and Northern Cross (Yukon) Ltd. The new parcel isadjacent to the old discoveries.

Yukon Premier Pat Duncan described the auction as keeping apromise to make exploration opportunities available regularly,following transfer of resource jurisdiction to the territory fromthe federal government. The sale also makes advances towardsmaking northern gas activity into a matter of routine for theindustry compared to regulatory and community-relations marathonsof previous eras.

Duncan said the new auction incorporates results of a publicreview since the first sale of drilling rights in 1999. “As aresult of comments received, we will incorporate requirements forenvironmental and heritage considerations,” the premier said. “Ourultimate goal is to ensure that the development of the Yukon oiland gas industry occurs in a responsible manner, respects ourenvironment and provides economic benefits to Yukoners.”

Preliminary work towards a decision on northern pipeline routescontinues. Studies by Alaskan producers have sprouted a branch inCalgary, where experts on regulatory and marketing affairs arepiecing together information on Canadian aspects of a U.S. project.At the same time, consultants are putting together informationpackages to present to Canadian authorities and working onproposals for a co-operative regulatory approach intended to reducenotoriously long review and approval procedures for northernprojects.

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