All eyes on the Inlet

This editorial first appeared in the Peninsula Clarion:

As Escopeta Oil and Gas’ Spartan 151 jack-up rig cruised through Cook Inlet waters this month, the mood was palpable.

Its arrival clearly excited the community, and for good reason.

That hunk of machinery being tugged to its new home symbolized the arrival of a new day in Southcentral Alaska energy production — a new landscape of diverse oil and gas companies.

These smaller, independent companies are hungry to produce the resources once dominated by the major players — Chevron, Marathon, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

Over the last several months we have heard encouraging news about these smaller companies’ interest. It seems they are widening their eyes on the potential under our waters and that’s good news for our communities from Hope to Homer.

Officials at Escopeta have indicated the Spartan 151 would likely stay in the area for eight years, or hopefully more.

Buccaneer officials also indicated at a lunch meeting Wednesday that they have plans to keep their off-shore operations for about five years.

Escopeta and Buccaneer join a list of relatively new companies — including Cook Inlet Energy, Apache, Hillcorp, and Nordaq, among others — who plan to fill a void in Alaska’s energy development portfolio.

Let’s make it clear to those companies and officials that they are welcome here and their businesses will provide a much-needed boost to our community and economy.

Although these companies aren’t making too many promises about what they might be able to produce because of obvious supply, market and shipping considerations, what is clear are the hard facts.

These rigs will need workers and a massive support network to keep them operational.

Those jobs and service opportunities will be a boon to an economy that’s been relatively healthy despite seeing its share of ups and downs. We hope an extended presence will be able to anchor us down while other exciting energy projects — geothermal and tidal — come online.

The economic spillover also comes with added energy security locally and probably for the rest of the state.

The key, however, to keeping these companies in the area, aside from what’s under their drills, is our attitude about them.

We must make it a priority to roll out the welcome mat and not view them as just oil companies hungry for black gold and natural gas, but rather as community partners that can help us grow in an economically stable path.

In short: We welcome the change and developments occurring the Cook Inlet. The spectrum of new companies eager to begin exploring our resources is exciting and we expect our community to rally behind, ensuring your needs are met. We hope you have a long, healthy stay.

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