ConocoPhillips secures Alaska project

Mar. 25—In a thunderclap of good news to the otherwise federally beleaguered energy industry, the United States Department of the Interior has awarded the ConocoPhillips Corp. the right to drill and produce oil and natural gas on the federally controlled North Slope of Alaska.

Understandably elated, ConocoPhillips Chairman-CEO Ryan Lance said from Houston that his company "has welcomed the Department of the Interior's record of decision for the Willow Project in Alaska."

Permian Basin Petroleum Association President Ben Shepperd, Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners President Ed Longanecker, State Rep. Brooks Landgraf and Texas Oil & Gas Association President Todd Staples also commented on the project, which will yield 160,000 barrels of oil per day for as much as 600 million barrels of oil and 3.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over 30 years.

Lance said the decision "means the company can now proceed with plans to build three core pads on the sites as detailed in the Bureau of Land Management's preferred Alternative E.

"The company has worked with key contractors to create extensive preparations for the project and it is in a position to start construction immediately," he said. "We are reviewing the ROD and aim to move toward a final investment decision as soon as possible." Calling the decision "the right one for both Alaska and the United States," Lance said the project "aligns with the environmental and social justice priorities of the Biden Administration and helps in the energy transition process while creating good jobs and providing support to Alaska native communities.

"The project has undergone a rigorous review process, including environmental considerations, and it is designed to co-exist with subsistence activities," he said. "The National Environmental Policy Act process is now complete."

Lance thanked Republican U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, along with Alaska's native communities, the state legislature and organized labor groups for their support.

ConocoPhillips has operations in 13 countries, $94 billion in assets and 9,500 employees.

Shepperd said Wednesday that the PBPA was hopeful the news signaled a change in the Biden adminstration's perception of the energy industry.

"We are encouraged by the decision of President Biden regarding the Willow Project on the North Slope of Alaska and we hope it represents a recognition of the importance of domestic energy production and particularly the importance of the American oil and natural gas industry," Shepperd said.

Longanecker said the project "is a step in the right direction, embracing oil and gas development to support growing global demand and strengthen our nation's energy security, but it's not enough.

"If Biden truly means to deliver affordable and reliable energy to America and our allies abroad in the coming years, then we will need substantial energy infrastructure investment and sound energy policy," Longanecker said. "It's unfortunate that the approval of this important project was preceded by actions that will further restrict domestic oil and natural gas development at the detriment of American consumers, including a ban on drilling in nearly three million acres of the Beaufort Sea and limiting drilling in more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve."

The Beaufort Sea is in the Arctic Ocean north of the Northwest Territories and Alaska and west of Canada's Arctic islands. The National Petroleum Reserve is on on the North Slope.

Longanecker said the Willow Project is an environmentally safe undertaking that will bring good jobs to Alaska.

Landgraf said from Austin that the announcement "is significant news for Texas as it highlights the important role our state plays in the energy industry.

"The Willow project is expected to create thousands of jobs and generate substantial revenue for the companies involved, which includes ConocoPhillips, a major player in the Texas oil and gas sector," the Odessa Republican said Wednesday. "It also underscores the need for continued investment in domestic energy production to secure America's energy independence and promote economic growth.

"Texas remains committed to leading the way in energy innovation and development and we look forward to seeing the positive impact of the Willow Project on our state and the nation as a whole," Landgraf said.

Staples said from Austin that the award "is a welcomed announcement.

"Our nation relies heavily upon domestic production, as well as international export to fuel everyday life and provide security for Americans and our allies abroad," Staples said. "It's important that our federal government continues to approve pending permits and projects to unleash American energy production and export."