Resource Development Council

RDC Action Alert:
Point Thomson Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Deadline for Comment was January 18, 2012

View RDC's December 5th Testimony
View Lindsay Williams Testimony on Behalf of Senator Cathy Giessel

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson natural gas condensate development project. The DEIS presents five alternatives: no action (Alternative A), coastal pads with in-field gravel roads, (Alternative B), inland pads with a gravel access road to Prudhoe Bay (Alternative C), inland pads without a gravel access road (Alternative D), and coastal pads without in-field gravel roads (Alternative E).

Point Thomson is a remote field on the Beaufort Sea coastline 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay and two miles from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The field contains an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 200 million barrels of condensate. Point Thomson represents approximately 25 percent of the North Slope’s known natural gas resources. Development of Point Thomson is essential to Alaska natural gas commercialization. Besides the operator, ExxonMobil, other major partners include BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron.

The project will use long-reach directional drilling from onshore pads to recover offshore resources. The proposed project includes three pads and five wells, with a central pad supporting production facilities, infield roads, pipelines, an airstrip, and a gravel mine site. A common carrier pipeline will be constructed for transporting hydrocarbon liquids 22 miles west to the Badami pipeline.

ExxonMobil put in its draft application for a wetlands permit in October 2009 to initiate the EIS process. The DEIS will be open for public comment until January 3 and public hearings are scheduled in December.

Action requested:
RDC encourages its members to participate in the process by submitting comments in support of Alternative B at upcoming public hearings. Of the five design alternatives considered, Alternative B provides the safest, most environmentally-responsible solution for developing Point Thomson’s resources in a timely, cost-effective manner.

Previous Public Hearings:
Anchorage, Monday, December 5, 6:30-8 p.m., Loussac Library
Fairbanks, Wednesday, December 7, 6:30-8 p.m., Wedgewood Resort Taiga Center
Kaktovik, Monday, December 12, 7:30-9 p.m, Marsh Creek Inn
Nuiqsut, Tuesday, December 13, 6:30-8 p.m., Trapper School
Barrow, Thursday, December 15, 6:30-8 p.m., Hopson Middle School

Deadline for Comment was January 18, 2012

Submit comments to:
Online Submittal:


A copy of the DEIS is available at:

Points to consider in your comments:

  • The proposed project is important to the state of Alaska and to Alaskans.
  • Of the design alternatives considered, Alternative B provides the safest, most environmentally-responsible solution for developing Point Thomson’s resources.
  • Alternative B ensures a minimal environmental footprint by incorporating a combination of summer coastal barging, winter ice roads, aviation, and in-field roads. These features are essential to the project’s safe and efficient operations.
  • Through Alternative B, ExxonMobil will implement comprehensive mitigation measures to minimize impact on tundra, wildlife, aquatic resources, and subsistence activities.
  • ExxonMobil works closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies to ensure polar bears and other wildlife are fully protected. Coastal barge route is outside the main fall migration corridor of bowhead whales.
  • The Point Thomson project will provide wide-ranging benefits to Alaska in the form of new business opportunities, jobs, and revenues.
  • Approval of the Point Thomson project, as proposed in Alternative B, is vital to the development of this world-class resource and North Slope gas commercialization.
  • Direct benefits to the State of Alaska from Point Thomson include training and jobs for Alaskans, new revenues to the state and local governments, increased throughput for the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, and increased business activity and revenue for the private sector.
  • Point Thomson is a highly-technical project with high costs. Unnecessary requirements that provide very little, if any, incremental environmental benefits, should be avoided as to not compromise the economic viability of the project.
  • The in-field roads included in Alternative B have been carefully routed to minimize the gravel footprint and for the efficient pass through of water.
  • Moving roads inland as proposed in Alternative C and D would increase the gravel footprint and be less effective in maintaining natural drainage patterns of the project area.
  • Alternatives C and D would move project components inland and eliminate barging, which is an established and safe means of supply for North Slope communities, including Prudhoe Bay. ExxonMobil has conducted safe barging operations in accordance with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission Conflict Avoidance Agreement and in direct consultation with local whaling communities. 188 barging trips in support of Point Thomson have occurred with no impacts to marine mammals or subsistence.
  • Alternatives C and D both result in inefficient logistical support and adds unnecessary challenges. Eliminating summer barging would result in increased costs, schedule delays, and increased tundra traffic.
  • The 44-mile gravel road from Endicott to Point Thomson as proposed under Alternative C would create a much larger tundra footprint. Current North Slope experience at Alpine and Badami demonstrates that a gravel road is not necessary to support Point Thomson. However, not having a road connecting to Prudhoe Bay does make the combination of barging, ice roads, air access and in-field gravel roads essential.
  • Alternative E would eliminate in-field gravel roads and shorten the airstrip. This alternative relies solely on helicopters and seasonally limited off-road vehicles for transportation to East and West pads for nine months of the year. There is no North Slope precedent for a production facility with such limitations. Moreover, inability to fly in poor weather introduces unnecessary safety risks for personnel, as well as emergency response limitations and operational inefficiencies.
  • The longer runway in Alternative B provides better access in bad weather, reduces the number of flights by allowing larger aircraft for routine cargo shipments and allows for aircraft to transport larger equipment capabilities in the event of an emergency.

Deadline for Comment was January 18, 2012

Return to Action Alerts