BLM issues draft environmental review for first proposed NPR-A well

The US Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental review for the first proposed petroleum development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). US Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alas.) welcomed the announcement, but a national environmental organization quickly called the document inadequate.

BLM said ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. applied in July 2013 for a right-of-way grant and related authorizations to construct a drill site, pipelines, and other facilities for development of petroleum resources within the Greater Mooses Tooth (GMT) Unit in the reserve on the western half of Alaska’s North Slope.

The proposed GMT1 project would facilitate the first commercial production of crude oil from federal lands in the NPR-A, the US Department of the Interior agency noted.

It would include construction of an 11.8-acre drill pad, an 8-mile access road, above-ground elevated pipelines, and an electric power line connecting the GMT1 drill pad to CPAI’s CD-5 drill pad currently under development, BLM’s Alaska State Office said on Feb. 19.

The GMT1 pad would have a capacity of up to 33 production wells and several injection wells, and be located on a federal oil and gas lease previously issued by BLM under the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (NPRPA), it added.

First studied in 2004

BLM originally analyzed the proposed development in its 2004 Alpine Satellite Development Plan (ASDP). The proposed project also is subject to the 2012 NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan (IAP), the agency said. It said it prepared a draft supplement to the ASDP to evaluate any relevant new circumstances and information which have arisen since 2004.

Key issues in the supplement center on protection of surface resources and appropriate mitigation measures for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed project. The DEIS also analyzes an alternative that does not include a gravel road between GMT1 and CD5, but use aircraft and an ice road for access.

Comments on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement, which appeared in the Feb. 21 Federal Register, will be accepted through Apr. 22. BLM also plans to hold public meetings in in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and the North Slope communities of Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Barrow, Nuiqsut, Point Lay, and Wainwright.

Begich said development of GMT1, like the CD-5 project currently under construction, will be a good step toward new oil production from the reserve.

‘Much-needed boost’

“Together the projects will put as much as 45,000 b/d into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System,” he indicated. “It’s a much-needed boost to help stem the declining TAPS throughput. I will continue to push the Obama administration to put additional leases up for sale and amend the NPR-A plan to allow more acreage to be open for development.”

The draft failed to comprehensively consider all available options for the proposed project, an official from the Conservation Lands Foundation said on Feb. 20.

“We’re pleased that BLM included a roadless development option,” said Ben Greuel, the organization’s Alaska program director. “But by failing to even consider seasonal drilling at Greater Mooses Tooth, [it] did not put forward an alternative that fully considers minimal impact development. BLM needs to fully and thoughtfully address this before deciding on a final plan.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of the Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club, and 3 other environmental organizations said that it’s important for BLM evaluate all the information it receives, weigh all alternatives and choose the least invasive option with the smallest footprint and impact.

“It is crucial that the plan includes protective measures for the surrounding communities, wildlife, and the two Special Areas near the development,” the group’s Feb. 20 statement continued.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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