ExxonMobil Corp. and the state of Alaska have reached a tentative agreement on development of the state’s Point Thomson gas fields. Should an agreement be finalized, it would put to bed a long-running dispute and clear a roadblock to development of a major gas pipeline from the North Slope to Lower 48 markets.

“This is definitely positive news for Alaska and encouraging for the gasline project,” said Gov. Sean Parnell. “After years of negotiating, it seems we are a step closer to clearing away obstacles that stand in the way of developing Point Thomson’s massive gas reserves. I am hopeful that we can begin to see additional progress on the gasline.”

It was originally reported by the Alaska Dispatch that Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan had told a state Senate committee that a “resolution in principle” has been reached. An ExxonMobil spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Details of the tentative agreement also were unavailable Tuesday.

Last fall the second Point Thomson development well was finished. “The successful drilling and testing of these wells represents a significant accomplishment and demonstrates we are delivering on our commitments,” said ExxonMobil Alaska Production Manager Dale Pittman at the time (see Daily GPI, Oct. 29, 2010). “We are continuing to work with the state of Alaska to resolve outstanding issues in order to maintain the pace and momentum of Point Thomson development.”

Point Thomson is thought to hold one-quarter of the North Slope’s natural gas reserves. Alaska has maintained that ExxonMobil has dragged its feet on development of the resource.

Development of the gas field is seen as critical to support a natural gas pipeline to Lower 48 markets that the state wants to construct and for which it has awarded TransCanada Corp. the concession to do so (see Daily GPI, April 21).

TransCanada Vice President Tony Palmer has said that resolving issues over the development of Point Thomson are necessary for the pipeline project to advance (see Daily GPI, May 18).

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