Tim Bradner

One regulatory hurdle cleared for Arctic OCS drilling

Shell is officially one step closer to resuming exploration in the Chukchi Sea. On Thursday the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released its final supplemental environmental impact statement for a 2008 Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale.

It is a move that is hoped to clear legal and regulatory hurdles facing Arctic offshore drilling.

CH2M Hill calls off Alaska unit sale

Senior managers of CH2M Hill were in Alaska Feb. 4 meeting with the company’s employees.

Their message: The company’s oil and gas business is no longer for sale and it’s business as usual.

CH2M Hill Senior Vice President for Corporate Development Matt McGowan and Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director Patrick O’Keefe said the company wanted to test the market’s reception on a possible sale when it was announced last October.

State pitches budget plans to rating agencies

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker and top state revenue officials were in New York Feb. 2 and 3, pitching Wall Street that Alaska is still a good financial bet even with a huge hole blown in state revenues by the plunge in oil prices.

Walker and the state team met with credit rating agencies Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Services and Fitch Ratings, hoping to persuade the institutions not to downgrade Alaska’s Triple-A credit rating on bonds.

Medicaid expansion to add 26,523 insured by 2021

Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to expand Medicaid in Alaska under terms of the federal Affordable Health Care Act is grounded in a new study done for the Department of Health and Social Services by Evergreen Economics, a Portland, Ore.-based consulting firm with experience in the health care field.

Several critical assumptions underlie the governor’s plan, according to the Evergreen report.

Great Bear spuds well south of Prudhoe Bay

Great Bear Petroleum has resumed its North Slope exploration drilling. The company “spudded,” or started, its Alkaid No. 1 well Feb. 5 to test a prospect on the Great Bear’s leases south of Prudhoe Bay and plans to drill a second well nearby this winter, Talitna No. 1.

The Nabors Alaska Drilling Co. Rig 106 is being used on the drilling, Great Bear vice president Pat Galvin said. About 60 workers are being employed on the rig.

Inlet rebound comes at cost to state during price plunge

The turnaround in Cook Inlet oil and gas production in recent years is one of the big success stories for Alaska. It has come at a hefty expense, however, to the state treasury.

It turns out that Inlet producers are being heavily subsidized by the state of Alaska, consultants to the state Legislature say in a report.

Since the state budget is 90 percent dependent on North Slope oil production revenues, this also means that, in effect, the big producing companies on the Slope are paying for the Cook Inlet producers.

Delegation vows fight after federal moves on ANWR, OCS

If tickets could be sold to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s hearings in March on the Interior Department’s annual appropriation, it would be a sell-out crowd as Secretary Sally Jewell is sure to come in for a roasting.

The Secretary has blocked a medical evacuation road for King Cove, in southwest Alaska, placed large areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off limits to oil and gas exploration, and has recommended wilderness status for the bulk of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including its coastal plain that has potential for large new oil and gas discoveries.

Administration exploring spending cuts, investment revenue

JUNEAU — State legislators are still in a state of shock over the state’s rapidly worsening revenue situation. What appears now to be back-to-back $3.5 billion budget deficits for this fiscal year and next could be worse if crude oil prices stay low or drop further.

Gov. Bill Walker and Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck say they will stick to a plan of modest budget cuts and riding out the slump by drawing on the state’s liquid cash reserves, now about $14 billion.

Judge hears arguments over ANWR exploration

The first skirmish — some say it may be the main battle — in the state’s effort explore the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge played out in U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason’s courtroom in Anchorage Jan. 20.

The issue before Gleason is whether the U.S. Department of the Interior should accept an application for a limited winter exploration program in a part of the coastal plain set aside for study of its oil and gas potential.

Royalty reduction approved to advance Nuna development

Gov. Bill Walker made his first major oil policy decision Jan. 20, approving a temporary reduction in state royalty for Caelus Energy that will allow the company to develop its technically-challenged Nuna project on the North Slope.

Under the deal, Caelus must formally “sanction” or commit to develop Nuna by March 30 but company officials said they will be undertaking some work this winter.

Nuna is to be in production by September 2017 under the deal. It is expected to produce between 15,000 barrels per day to 20,000 barrels per day.

State officials to meet with credit rating agencies

In addition to being the state’s taxman, Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffback is the state’s chief salesman on Wall Street. Hoffbeck, Deputy Revenue Commissioner Jerry Burnett and other state officials head for New York Feb. 1 to meet with the rating agencies that assess Alaska’s credit worthiness.

As one of two deputy commissioners, Burnett is in charge of the Treasury Division, which includes matters relating to state bonds.

Industry is still buzzing about Walker firings

The state’s political and resource communities are still buzzing about Gov. Bill Walker’s sudden firing Jan. 6 of three Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board members and his order that new board members not sign confidentiality pledges.

Besides the political theater, the concern is whether this might impair the state corporation’s ability to make decisions — and participate–— in the big Alaska LNG Project, where the state is a partner with industry and a 25 percent equity owner.

US demand slipping, Pacific market still strong for coal

Oil markets may be in the tank, but there’s another fossil fuel people often forget where the market situation is quite different: Coal.

Demand for coal used in power generation is soaring on world markets, up 300 percent since 2000. However, the supply of coal has kept up with demand, so prices are soft, although nothing like what is being seen in crude oil.

Despite that, potential to grow the Alaska’s coal industry is clearly there, Dan Graham, president of the Alaska Coal Association, told the Alaska Support Industry Alliance’s annual “Meet Alaska” conference Jan. 9.

BlueCrest, WesPac ink deal to develop Cosmo

BlueCrest Energy plans to resume drilling at the Cosmopolitan oil and gas deposit near Anchor Point this summer, BlueCrest CEO Benjamin Johnson said.

The company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has signed a Memorandum of Terms with WesPac Midstream LLC to help finance development of gas resources at Cosmopolitan oil.

New confidentiality policy for AGDC

Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards said the administration of Gov. Bill Walker understands the need for protection of certain private information in the state’s dealings with industry partners in the Alaska LNG Project, but that the current confidentiality provisions that cover the state gas corporation are too broad.

Walker stirred a political tempest Jan. 6 when he fired three Alaska Gas Development Corp., or AGDC, board members and also ordered new board members not to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Slope construction season still strong amid price plunge

It’s a seeming paradox: Oil prices are still sliding as North Slope crude closed at about $55 per barrel Jan. 6, but this year’s winter construction season is shaping up to be one of the strongest ever.

Industry employment, the most reliable indicator of activity, set new records in October and November, according to data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Hilcorp files plan for Liberty field development

Hilcorp Energy filed a Development and Production Plan Dec. 30 for the proposed offshore Liberty project in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea with the U.S. Bureau of Energy Management.

The project would involve an artificial gravel island and a subsea pipeline to shore, company officials said. Hilcorp recently closed on the purchase of 50 percent of Liberty from BP along with three small producing North Slope fields. Hilcorp is the operator at Liberty with BP remaining as a 50 percent partner.

Linc Energy won't need access road for Umiat field project

An independent oil and gas company working on development of a small oil field at Umiat, on the southern North Slope, said the state’s termination of permitting for a resources road into the area won’t affect its plans.

The company, Australia-based Linc Energy, believes it can develop the field as a “roadless” project with surface access by winter snow road. A pipeline would still be needed, however, said company spokesman Paul Ludwig.

Citing transparency, Walker fires three AGDC board members

Gov. Bill Walker’s already troubled relations with the new Legislature have just gotten a lot worse.

Walker fired three board members of Alaska Gasline Development Corp. and instructed four remaining members not to sign confidentiality agreements on information related to projects the state-owned entity is managing.

Politicos have tough hands to play in 2015

Chips are down for gov, legislators facing massive budget gap

Gov. Bill Walker and his new administration are still settling in as state legislators are packing up to head to Juneau for the 2015 session.

The annual political poker game begins Jan. 20 when the state Legislature convenes.

Walker will be at the table. So will House Speaker Mike Chenault; Senate President Kevin Meyer; House Democratic Minority Leader Chris Tuck; and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Berta Gardner.

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