Resource Development Council

ConocoPhillips to appeal Corps’ NPRA decision

ConocoPhillips is appealing a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejecting a major permit application to construct a bridge across the Colville River to access oil deposits inside the National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA).

“We are disappointed with the Corps of Engineers decision,” said ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Natalie Lowman. “We have diligently tried to permit this project for almost five years and we intend to exercise our right to appeal the denial.”

The project includes a new drill pad, one major and two smaller bridge crossings, and a six-mile road connection to facilities at Alpine.

ConocoPhillips applied for permits in 2008 to develop what would be the first oil from the petroleum reserve. The company had local and state support for the project but both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opposed the project, citing overriding national interests and aquatic values.

The Corps said there are other alternatives, that would have less impact on the ecosystem, including taking oil to Alpine via a pipeline drilled under the Nigliq Channel. EPA suggested extended-reach drilling from existing Alpine facilities. However, ConocoPhillips noted orientation and low permeability of the CD-5 reservoir make such an option highly challenging, and there are drawbacks to an underground pipeline.

The CD-5 project represents more than $600 million in investment and 400 direct new jobs and hundreds of support jobs.

Senator Lisa Murkowski pointed out that for decades those who oppose developing a portion of ANWR or Alaska’s offshore fields have continually cited NPRA as the area where development should occur instead. Murkowski warned if a producer cannot get across the Colville River, NPRA’s resources are off-limits.

“I am alarmed and amazed by this short-sighted decision, which totally ignores the economics of future energy development in all of northern Alaska,” Murkowski said. “Directional drilling can work in ANWR because the oil is concentrated in the northwest corner. That is an entirely different situation than the vast and widely distributed deposits in the NPRA, however, and the administration knows it.”

“If allowed to stand, this decision will kill all future oil development from the nation’s largest designated petroleum reserve,” Murkowski said.

Senator Mark Begich echoed concern. “After the parties worked together for years to get agreement on NPRA development, I am deeply disappointed the first project just got knocked off track,” Begich said.

Return to newsletter headlines