State denies Point Thomson ice road request

Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2008

ANCHORAGE - The state has rejected a request by Exxon Mobil Corp. to build an ice road in a North Slope natural gas field whose lease ownership is in dispute.

The state has tried to strip Exxon and partners of leases held by Exxon since 1977, saying the area known as Point Thomson was never developed.

"Despite the fact that the leases expired in August 2008, (Exxon Mobil) applied for permission to construct an ice road to transport a drilling rig onto the expired lease to drill for oil and gas," the Alaska Department of Natural Resources said in a statement released Friday. "It is unfortunate that (Exxon Mobil's) efforts to force a solution on the Department of Natural Resources over its repeated and strenuous objections may have led honest Alaskans to believe that this drilling effort might actually take place."

Irving, Texas-based Exxon has sued the state to reclaim the leases and is trying to move forward with developing Point Thomson.

State officials said it is not in the state's best interests to allow Exxon to proceed while the dispute is unresolved.

"Responsible development of the considerable oil and gas resources in this area is the state's goal," the natural resources department said in its statement.

Point Thomson holds almost one-fourth of the North Slope's 35 trillion cubic feet of known reserves. The area is deemed essential to successful development of a 1,170-mile pipeline project.

Exxon spokeswoman Margaret Ross said Saturday that the company has not received any notification from the state about the ice road application and will not comment on that.

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