Oil companies to scale back Alaska projects

Posted: Friday, November 20, 2009

ANCHORGE - Two oil and gas companies plan to cut back their investment in Alaska next year, but another is expanding.

ConocoPhillips said it won't drill a new exploration well in the state next year, and BP said it's cutting its Alaska spending by 15 percent. Exxon Mobil, however, said it is "100 percent" behind developing new wells at Point Thomson, a large oil and gas unit 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay.

The updates were part of the Resource Development Council's annual conference, which ends Thursday.

Gov. Sean Parnell addressed the conference Wednesday, promising to fight efforts to list additional Alaska species as endangered.

The governor said he's seeking $800,000 in state funding for outside attorneys to fight listing efforts and wants to create a new attorney position within the state Department of Law just to handle endangered species issues.

If Conoco follows through on its plans, it will mark the first year since 1965 that it has not drilled a new exploration well in Alaska. The company plans to focus its spending on developing its Chukchi Sea leases, said Helene Harding, vice president of North Slope operations and development.

"We're shifting our focus offshore," she said.

Harding noted that the company has been an aggressive explorer on the North Slope in recent years. It has drilled about 56 wells since 1999, but many didn't prove worth developing.

The company said it believes the state's recent revisions to oil taxes will harm industry investment and cause job losses.

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