Tim Bradner

A whole lot of hydrates, potentially

Government and industry scientists say they are making good progress toward production of methane gas from hydrates, a potentially vast hydrocarbon resource. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

This is still a science project, but knowledge is being gained step-by-step, researchers with the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey and industry said in interviews with the Journal.

Ballot Measure 2 goes down by wide margin

The ballot proposition that would have reestablished a state coastal management program in Alaska was heavily defeated by voters in the state’s primary election held Aug. 28.

The measure was being closely watched by natural resource industries. Had Ballot Measure 2 passed, the new coastal management program would have added new layers of complexity to permitting for projects in the coastal zone, which has been broadly defined.

With six drill rigs at work, it's a busy summer at Livengood

FAIRBANKS — International Tower Hills Mines is continuing development planning on the company’s Livengood gold project on the Elliott Highway north of Fairbanks.

Engineering and other work continues on a development plan for the mine that is now due in mid-2013. Normally, a mining company does a “pre-feasibility” study to initiate permitting, followed by a “feasibility” study following the obtaining of permits. But at its Livengood project, ITH is combining the two into one feasibility study.

Drilling vessel Kulluk is now finally en route to the Arctic

Things are starting to break for Shell.

The drilling vessel Kulluk is now finally en route to the Arctic from Dutch Harbor, and will arrive in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea is about two weeks, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.

The second drilling vessel in Shell’s fleet, the Noble Discoverer, will likely depart Dutch Harbor for the Chukchi Sea on the weekend, Aug. 25 or 26, Smith said.

Both sides of Pebble find fault with EPA study

Scientists and attorneys on both sides of the Pebble mine controversy are voicing starkly different opinions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Bristol Bay watershed study.

A panel of 12 independent scientists concluded three days of meetings on the study in Anchorage Aug. 7. A report to EPA by the group will be made late this fall, the scientists said.

CINGSA scrambling for gas as contract dispute emerges

A contract dispute has impaired gas supplies for the new $180 million gas storage facility being developed on the Kenai Peninsula, the operator of the facility, Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska, or CINGSA, said Aug. 20.

“We are seeking to buy 2 billion cubic feet of gas,” to bring the “pad gas” needed to pressurize the storage reservoir to 7 billion cubic feet by this fall, CINGSA spokesman John Sims said.

Gold find adds 1.2M ounces at Pogo

FAIRBANKS – Drilling crews are busy on new exploration this summer at the Pogo gold mine near Delta, east of Fairbanks. It is the biggest exploration season since the mine opened, says Lorna Shaw, external affairs manager for Sumitomo Metal Mining, which owns and operates the mine.

Natural gas for Southcentral storage facility may be Japan-bound

A contract dispute has impaired gas supplies for the new $180 million gas storage facility being developed on the Kenai Peninsula, the operator of the facility, Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska, or CINGSA, said Aug. 20.

“We are seeking to buy 2 billion cubic feet of gas,” to bring the “pad gas” needed to pressurize the storage reservoir to 7 billion cubic feet by this fall, CINGSA spokesman John Sims said.

Barge, not ice, now delays Shell's Arctic drilling program

Pity Shell. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

For five years the company has been trying to drill exploration wells in the Arctic offshore.

First there were lawsuits. Then permits delays after the Gulf of Mexico offshore well blowout in 2010. Then Arctic sea ice. Now, a barge delay.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar seemed to take the company to task in an Aug. 13 press conference in Anchorage.

“It’s not the ice,” the Secretary said. “It is Shell’s delay in completing (inspections) of its response vessel.”

Delegation slams NPR-A plan; greens pleased

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Aug. 13 he has chosen a preferred alternative for a land management plan for the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve, although details of the plan remain sketchy.

The newly-proposed “Alternative B-2” management plan would open 11 million acres of the reserve to oil and gas leasing but would also place 13 million acres in special conservation areas, Salazar said.

Details of the new alternative aren’t yet available, but state of Alaska officials aren’t happy about it.

Reviewers say EPA's Pebble study needs work

Scientists reviewing a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessment of a potential large copper and gold mine in an environmentally sensitive area near Iliamna Lake said Aug. 8 that the agency’s draft watershed assessment needs work, and should not be based on hypothetical mine scenarios.

Some of the scientists said the agency is too pessimistic in its assessment of risks. The EPA asked 12 scientists to review its Bristol Bay watershed assessment last May as an independent review panel.

In a deal with the EPA on emissions, TOTE will convert to LNG

Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc., or TOTE, will convert its two large ocean cargo vessels to use liquefied natural instead of conventional bunker fuel, the first such conversion for large general cargo vessels in the U.S. maritime industry.

Liquefied natural gas tankers, such as those that call at ConocoPhillips’ LNG plant at Kenai, have used LNG as fuel for years but general cargo and other marine vessels have been fueled by conventional bunker fuel and diesel.

Suit over Arctic spill plan will test agency standards

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit July 10 in an Alaska federal court against the U.S. Bureau of Safely and Environmental Enforcement over the agency’s standard of review in approving Shell’s oil spill cleanup plans for exploration drilling planned this summer in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

The action isn’t intended to stop Shell but rather to force the BSEE to adopt a tougher standard in reviewing future spill plans filed if Shell is successful, according to Michael LeVine, Pacific senior counsel for Oceana, one of the plaintiffs.

Great Bear drilling first North Slope shale test wells

Great Bear Petroleum is now drilling its first North Slope test well to assess potential for production of oil from shale formations in the region, similar to the way oil is being produced in the Bakken and Eagleford shale formations of the Lower 48 states.

The company’s first well is now being drilled about 15 miles south of the Prudhoe Bay field on the North Slope, said Ed Duncan, Great Bear’s president. The first core samples were taken July 1.

“We intend to take cores from three shale formations the well will penetrate,” Duncan said.

BP again delays development of Liberty field

BP has deferred development of the small Liberty field in the Beaufort Sea northeast of the Prudhoe Bay and Endicott fields, this time indefinitely. The company would give no timetable on when the project could be developed.

BP spokeswoman Dawn Patience said June 29 that technical problems with the company’s plan to produce the field with ultra-extended reach production wells drilled from shore have caused the company to revamp the project after an 18-month review of the development plan and a heavy drill rig was built to drill the wells.

Alaska officials cautious on Court ruling

Gov. Sean Parnell and state Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur are cautious in their assessment of effects on Alaska of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on the federal health insurance reform act.

“The federal health care act will be implemented. The Supreme Court said so. But we do not intend to see Alaska saddled with costs,” Parnell said in a press briefing June 28, the same day the court’s decision was announced.

ExxonMobil gears up as Point Thomson probe continues

ExxonMobil is gearing up to resume work this winter on the Point Thomson natural gas cycling and liquid condensate project, but state legislators are continuing to scrutinize the settlement the state reached with the company and its partners over a long-standing dispute.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the settlement June 12 and on June 22 Democrats in the state House weighed in with a detailed letter to State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan raising questions on certain points in the agreement.

World energy markets adjusted well in 2011

The remarkable thing about world energy markets in 2011 was how resilient and flexible they proved to be in responding to the huge shocks to the energy system last year, BP economist Mark Finley says.

Finley was in Anchorage last week, reviewing the company’s 2012 statistical review of world energy data in a presentation to business leaders. BP publishes the compilation of energy data every year, and it is relied on widely in industry and governments.

Finley is BP’s general manager of its Global Energy Markets & U.S. Economics group.

Accounting for natural wealth gaining traction worldwide

Bering Straits Native Corp. has not yet decided whether to try and redevelop the closed Rock Creek gold mine north of Nome or to proceed with closure of the mine and reclamation of the property, the corporation’s resources vice president Matt Ganley said June 20.

Also, the agreement for NovaGold Resources, the developer of the mine, to sell the project to Bering Straits, has not yet been finalized.

Hilcorp has aggressive goals for Inlet production

Hilcorp Energy has laid out its plans for Cook Inlet oil field redevelopment. In a presentation to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce June 18, company president Greg Lalicker said Hillcorp has set a goal to increase production from the Inlet’s aged fields to 25,000 barrels per day by 2014.

That’s up from 14,000 b/d in 2011, Chevron Corp.’s final year of owning the fields and producing platforms. Hilcorp acquired the properties from Chevron in January,


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