U.S Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has announced a long-awaited development for oil and energy production offshore of the state of Alaska.
On Wednesday 24 October, the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued conditional approval to Hilcorp Alaska LLC for their Liberty Project oil and gas development and production plan. If developed, the facility would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters offshore of Alaska.
In their submission, Hilcorp proposed to build a nine-acre artificial gravel island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea, about 32 kilometres east of Prudhoe Bay and about 8 kilometres off the coast. The facility would resemble the four oil-and-gas-producing artificial islands currently operating in the area’s state waters (Spy Island, Northstar Island, Endicott Island and Oooguruk Island).
In his announcement, Secretary Zinke said the Department of Interior is working with Alaska Native stakeholders and is following through on President Trump’s promise of ‘American Energy Dominance’.
“Today we’re announcing approval of the Hilcorp Liberty Project, which if completed, will be the first production facility ever located in federal waters off Alaska,” said Secretary Zinke.
“American energy dominance is good for the economy, the environment, and our national security. Responsibly developing our resources, in Alaska especially, will allow us to use our energy diplomatically to aid our allies and check our adversaries. That makes America stronger and more influential around the globe,” he announced.
Before the project’s approval, BOEM conducted a rigorous evaluation process to evaluate the safety and environmental impacts of the Liberty Project and further incorporated input from the public, North Slope communities and tribal organisations. Approval conditions, however, do include restricted drilling into the hydrocarbon-bearing zone, which may occur only during times of solid ice conditions; seasonal restrictions on activities and vessel traffic to reduce potential disturbance to Cross Island subsistence whaling activities.
Joe Balash, the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management said there are already four other gravel-island facilities off the North Slope, and they consider Hilcorp’s plan to represent a relatively conservative, time-tested approach toward offshore oil and gas development.
“Using input from North Slope communities, tribal organisations, and the public, we have developed a robust set of environmental mitigation measures and safety practices that will be applied to this project,” he said.