The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a call for information and nominations on July 25 for a possible 2017 oil and gas lease sale in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s coast. Comments for what would be OCS Lease Sale 242 will be accepted for 45 days, it said.
The call seeks information about specific areas within the Beaufort Sea Planning Area that have the most promising oil and gas resource potential, BOEM said. It also aims to increase the US Department of the Interior agency’s understanding about environmentally sensitive habitats and important social and cultural uses—including vital Alaska Native subsistence activities—which exist within the area.
BOEM emphasized that the call does not indicate a final decision about any areas that may be offered for lease in the future.
“There is significant oil and gas potential in the Beaufort Sea, but this part of the Arctic Ocean is also a unique and sensitive environment that is critically important to the subsistence needs of Alaska Native communities on the North Slope,” BOEM Acting Director Walter D. Cruickshank said.
“Any consideration of future leasing must be done in a way that identifies not only the areas which have resource potential, but also those areas which must be protected for wildlife and traditional uses,” he said.
BOEM said that consistent with its targeted leasing approach, the call is designed to provide it with information about interest in offshore oil and gas leasing by requesting that oil and gas producers identify specific blocks in the Beaufort Sea Program Area which appear promising for exploration and development.
Levels of priority
The call asks producers to rank their interest in particular areas according to five levels of priority, ranging from “critical interest” to “no interest.” If a nomination falls outside the area BOEM has determined to have a high hydrocarbon potential, the nominating company will be required to provide detailed information about the basis for its level of interest in the nominated area, including a summary of the relevant geologic, geophysical and economic information, BOEM said.
It said it would make decisions about potential areas for leasing after evaluating industry interest in the resource potential of specific areas and continuing its analysis of scientific information and traditional knowledge regarding environmental issues and potential conflicts with uses such as subsistence activities.
The Alaska Wilderness League called on US President Barack Obama to stop any further Beaufort Sea oil and gas activity in response to BOEM’s announcement. “As we’ve seen from Shell’s 2012-13 drilling season, the harshness and uncertainty of the Arctic climate coupled with the lack of scientific information about our fragile Arctic Ocean make [this] no place to drill,” AWL Executive Director Cindy Shogan said.
“Shell’s failures and the on-the-ground reality of the Arctic should give the Obama administration ample reason to take any future leasing off the table,” she declared.
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