Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2005

Rise in oil creates tight labor market

ANCHORAGE - The high price of oil has caused a rise in oil field activity, which in turn has created job opportunities as well as a tight labor market for oil services companies.

Last year, oil services giant Schlumberger's payroll in Alaska averaged 387 workers, ranking it the 63rd largest employer in the state. When general manager Eric Larson transferred in January back to his home state to run the local office, the company employed about 420 people, from petroleum engineers to mechanics.

As of this week, Schlumberger had 472 people on its Alaska payroll. Larson expects that to bump up to about 500 within six months before leveling off.

"There's a tremendous skilled labor shortage right now," said Paul Laird, head of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, an oil-services trade group.

BP Exploration Alaska Inc., which runs most of the North Slope oil fields, said last month it plans to add 200 engineers and other workers in the next year to staff expansion projects. Conoco Phillips Alaska Inc., the state's top oil producer, last week said its Alaska capital budget will rise to $800 million next year from $743 million this year.

State says high oil prices will continue

FAIRBANKS - The state Department of Revenue predicts oil prices next year will average $57 a barrel.

Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus released new projections Thursday, raising hope that a state government budget windfall will continue another year.

Uncertainties about world supplies and market concerns over potential shortages have kept the price of oil high, Corbus said.

Crude oil is the main source of state income.

"Oil revenues continue to dominate unrestricted revenues and are expected to provide 85 percent of unrestricted revenues through fiscal year 2008," he said.

The high price being paid for North Slope crude oil will provide 75 percent of state revenue from 2009 to 2011, the department said.

The state should receive about $4 billion from royalties and taxes in 2006. About $600 million of that money will go into the Alaska Permanent Fund.

The forecast for oil prices in 2007 is $49.20 a barrel. That estimate drops to $40.95 a barrel the following year.

Police arrest homicide suspect

ANCHORAGE - An 18-year-old man wanted in the shooting death of a man who came to the aid of his mother during a robbery has been arrested, Anchorage police said.

Police arrested George M. Romero Jr., suspected of killing Fiatsu Saena, 20, who was gunned down on Dec. 2 when he ran to help his mother who was being held up at gunpoint in the driveway of their home, authorities said.

The young men apparently did not know each other, Police Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz said Friday.

Detectives linked Romero to the slaying when someone who was in the accused man's apartment before the shooting later told detectives that Romero had said on the evening of the shooting that he was going out to get some money.

"The witness understood it was in an illegal fashion," Markiewicz said.

Markiewicz said that same person told police that when Romero came back to the apartment, Romero told him, "I had to pop someone."

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