National Petroleum Reserve Issues First Permit for Oil and Gas Development

Published December 7, 2015

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has given the green light for the first oil and gas development project on federal lands in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A).

The federal agency issued drilling and right-of-way permits for the proposed Greater Mooses Tooth oil and gas development project (GMT1).

Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, says the reserve was set aside for oil and gas exploration in the 1920s.

“It’s a good thing BLM granted a permit for the Greater Mooses Tooth project,” said Kish. “The National Petroleum Reserve is [composed of] 23 million acres—the size of Indiana. It’s about time some activity take place there.”

“This is good news for the state and ConocoPhillips,” said Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) to Environment & Climate News. “The National Petroleum Reserve is estimated to hold more than 800 million barrels of oil.

“As Alaska grapples with a $3.5 billion deficit due in part to low oil prices and production, we applaud the hard work by ConocoPhillips to obtain this drilling permit and right-of-way grant for the Greater Mooses Tooth Unit,” Walker said.

Additional Delays

ConocoPhillips’ project will include construction of an 11.8-acre drilling pad in the northern area of NPR-A. Aboveground pipelines will be used to deliver oil to the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline.

Despite the permit to drill, GMT1 still faces roadblocks. In January 2015, ConocoPhillips announced it was slowing investment because of permitting delays and falling oil prices.

“The Greater Mooses Tooth number one project has not been approved for funding yet by ConocoPhillips and our co-owner, and we do not have a specific date when that will happen,” said Natalie Lowman, a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips Alaska.

“The federal permitting process is always fraught with trouble, which is one of the reasons oil and gas production on federal lands lags that on private and state lands, so there are liable to be other delays,” said Kish. “Anti-energy groups [on] the green Left typically pursue every avenue available to them to slow down projects and drive up their costs.

“Their goal, of course, is to make them uneconomic so they never get off the ground,” Kish said.

Kish says these obstacles are unwarranted because decades of experience show oil and gas production can take place while the environment and wildlife thrive.

“Areas like the NPR-A are essential if the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is to continue being a major energy transportation corridor for the United States,” said Kish. “The Inupiat Eskimo people of the region support oil and gas development, and many are involved in the energy business.

“The government should streamline its lengthy processes to ensure the American people will benefit from the energy supplies they own there,” Kish said.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.