The Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that 3.98 million acres of land on Alaska’s North Slope will be sold for oil and gas development Dec. 11.
BLM will offer 350 tracts to be sold via sealed competitive bid; the bid opening will be streamed live at the Bureau’s website at 10 a.m. that day.
“This is one of several actions we are taking to further expand energy development in Alaska,” BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett said in a release. “With advancements in drilling technology, it was prudent to develop a new plan that provides for greater economic development of our resources while still providing protections for important resources, such as subsistence uses.”
The tracts are located south of Utqiagvik and the Beaufort Sea and part of what is called the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). According to BLM, bids for the previous 14 lease sales generated more than $283 million, with half going to the State of Alaska.
Half the proceeds going to the state is a provision of the 1981 Interior Appropriations Act, according to Lesli Ellis-Wouters, communications director for BLM in Alaska. That act also says that half of all receipts from “sales, rentals, bonuses, and royalties on leases,” shall be paid to the state.
BLM’s announcement said the sale was “in keeping with the Trump Administration’s goal of promoting America’s energy independence and bolstering Alaska’s economy.” On Facebook Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy praised the sale, saying he was glad to see the administration opening more land for responsible oil and gas production.
“We are already seeing billions of dollars of private investment on the North Slope,” the governor said in his post, “and I am hopeful that this lease sale will help bring even more good paying jobs to Alaska.”
However, Ellis-Wouters said sales of NPR-A land take place annually and pointed to BLM’s website listing details of each sale dating back to 1999. 2018’s sale netted more than $1.5 million for 2.8 million acres.
Ellis-Wouters said the amount of land to be sold each year is determined by industry interest. Oil and gas industry inform BLM of potential interest and a decision is made based on those requests.
Currently, ConocoPhillips is the only company working on tracts in the NPR-A. Since tracts are sold via sealed bid, Ellis-Wouters could not say which companies had already submitted bids. ConocoPhillips could not immediately be reached for comment.
It’s not clear exactly how much oil and gas is in the region as BLM does not keep those sorts of records and the U.S. Geological Survey doesn’t have estimates that match the NPR-A exactly.
Alex Demas, public affairs specialist for USGS, told the Empire that a 2017 estimation said that the mean, undiscovered, recoverable resources (meaning they can be recovered with existing technology) was 8.7 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas on the NPR-A on adjacent state and Alaska Native lands.
Demas said there was a distinction between “resources” and “reserves” with resources being not yet drilled and proven to exist.
“Reserves have been proven and are considered economic for purposes like reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Demas said in an email.
Bids must be submitted by 4 p.m. AKST Dec. 9. Terms and conditions for bids are available at BLM’s website.
According to the Alaska Department of Revenue, the price of an Alaska North Slope West Coast barrel of oil was $65.02 as of Nov. 6.
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