Tim Bradner

Withdrawal agreement would allow state to buy Slope gas

Gov. Bill Walker released the agreement signed Dec. 4 by the state, BP and ConocoPhillips regarding the companies’ willingness to sell North Slope natural gas if either firm withdraws from the Alaska LNG Project.

The nine-page agreement states that the sales offer will be made to the State of Alaska if “mutually agreed commercially reasonable terms can be reached between the relevant party (the withdrawing company) and DNR (the state Department of Natural Resources).”

Annual revenue forecast a bleak picture for production take

The state released its annual forecast for state revenue and oil production Dec. 8, and the news wasn’t good.

Unrestricted general fund revenues, a measure of funds available for appropriation by the Legislature to support public services, is now forecast at $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2016, the current budget year, compared with $2.26 billion for the last fiscal year that ended June 30.

This will likely balloon a projected deficit for the year from $2.7 billion estimated last spring to more than $3 billion.

AGDC, partners OK gasline budget; ExxonMobil only producer to not offer withdrawal agreement

The board of the state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. voted unanimously Dec. 3 to approve a $75.6 million expenditure as Alaska’s 25 percent share of final preliminary engineering costs for the Alaska LNG Project.

The state is a one-quarter partner in the project with North Slope gas owners BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

Later in the day, the project partners voted to approve the total project spending of $230 million for the 2016 preliminary engineering budget.

Citing new projects, explorers urge preservation of tax credits

State oil and gas tax credit incentives are a valuable investment in new oil production and in-state energy security and shouldn’t be trashed, independent explorers are telling state officials and legislators.

In the long run they more than repay the state treasury through new royalty and state taxes, too, several companies say.

Hilcorp looks for cost savings, new reserves

Hillcorp Energy’s Cook Inlet oil production is holding steady at about 14,000 barrels per day and the company is now negotiating with Southcentral regional utilities for extension of natural gas supply contracts, Hilcorp president Greg Lalicker told the Resource Development Council conference Nov. 19.

In a briefing on Hilcorp’s activity in Alaska, Lalicker said some new gas supply contracts have been signed out to 2023 and 2024 and others are still being finalized. Hilcorp’s previous supply contracts were through the early part of 2018.

Native regional corporations net income rebounded in 2014

Alaska Native corporations continue to grow in financial strength and are increasingly integrated into the state’s economy. In 2014 total revenues by the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations grew over 2013 in line with a five-year average, according to the latest financial reports on regional corporations released Dec. 1 by the ANCSA Regional Association.

ANCSA stands for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that passed in 1971 and created the regional and village corporations.

Tesoro acquires Flint Hills marketing operation

Tesoro will acquire Flint Hills Resources’ fuels marketing and logistics facilities in Alaska, the company announced Nov. 23. The Interior Alaska refinery closed by Flint Hills in April 2014 is not included in the transaction.

Tesoro operates a refinery at Nikiski, on the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska.

“This investment represents our commitment to efficiently and reliably serve customers in the state of Alaska, said Tesoro CEO Greg Goff in a statement.

ConocoPhillips only successful bidder at federal lease sale

In contrast to a state areawide lease sale held the same day, bidding was very light at a federal U.S. Bureau of Land Management sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Nov. 18.

NPR-A is the large federal reserve west of state lands on the North Slope,.

Only six bids were submitted for six tracts, all by ConocoPhillips. The acreage bid on was adjacent to leases already held by ConocoPhillips and Anadarko Petroleum, a minority partner.

BlueCrest set for April production at Cosmo

BlueCrest Energy will begin oil production next April at its Cosmopolitan project in Cook Inlet and will initially be trucking crude oil to the Tesoro Alaska refinery at Nikiski, company CEO Benjamin Johnson told the Journal.

Cosmopolitan is an offshore oil and gas deposit three miles off Anchor Point, on the east side of Cook Inlet, that is owned 100 percent by BlueCrest. Oil will be produced through production wells drilled from shore.

BlueCrest, an independent oil and gas company, is based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Schedule slipping on pre-FEED work, critical agreements

State officials say they are worried that the schedule for the big Alaska LNG Project could slip because of delays by North Slope producers in reaching key agreements.

However, the state itself is contributing to some of the delay, as well as part of the cost increase of the pre-front end engineering and design, or pre-FEED, sources familiar with the project say. 

Gov. Bill Walker had hoped to have the agreements earlier this fall in time for legislative approval in a special session of the Legislature held in late October, but that did not happen.

Lengthy to-do list remains for Alaska LNG negotiators

There is a long list of commercial issues yet to be resolved in the Alaska LNG Project negotiations but many of these may be combined, so the number of agreements, in the form of contracts, is yet to be determined, sources familiar with the negotiations have told the Journal.

At the top of the list are four items important to the state of Alaska, two of which Gov. Bill Walker hopes to see resolved by early December. They are:

Administration will introduce bill to convert Fund earnings

The slide in crude oil prices is continuing, and transforming Alaska’s state finances to revenue sources more predictable and sustainable than oil income has taken on more urgency.

Year-to-date prices for North Slope crude oil were at an average of $49.98 per barrel as of Nov. 17. That’s since July 1, the start the current fiscal year, and it is $16 per barrel less than the price of $66.03 per barrel predicted by the state last March and used as the basis for budget planning.

Statoil quits the Alaska Arctic OCS, following Shell’s exit

Norway-based Statoil has quit its Alaska Arctic program in the Chukchi Sea, becoming the second company to officially withdraw from the region. 

ConocoPhillips, the remaining holdout among the Chukchi Sea explorers, has not indicated its intentions but said the company’s Arctic offshore plans had been on hold for some time.

Earlier this fall Shell announced disappointing results on Chukchi Sea drilling and said it would end its program.

ConocoPhillips greenlights $900M Greater Moose’s Tooth-1

It was an announcement that lifted spirits at the annual Resource Development Council conference on Nov. 18.

ConocoPhillips Alaska President Joe Marushack said his company will proceed with construction of its Greater Moose’s Tooth No. 1 oil project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

“GMT-1 has been approved for funding. It is expected to cost about $900 million and follows our recent completion of CD-5,” which is also in the NPR-A, Marushack said.

Independents win big acreages in state North Slope lease sale

Some people in industry still have a lot of faith in the North Slope, even with crude oil prices skidding.

Independent companies bid aggressively for acreage Dec. 18 in the state’s North Slope “area-wide” sale, acquiring acreage at rock-bottom prices.

The bulk of the offers were rock-bottom bids but with the exception of two high bids by Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas on tracts near a discovery Armstrong plans to develop with Repsol. Armstrong beat out competing bids by ConocoPhillips, in fact.

Resource heavyweights gather at momentous time for Alaska

It’s November, and time for the big Resource Development Council annual conference. This year, more than any other, huge issues loom for Alaskans including the proposed $50-billion plus North Slope gas pipeline and liquefied gas project and the state’s fiscal troubles, with $3 billion-plus annual deficits.

All will be discussed at the conference.

Draft EIS nearly ready for Donlin, in the works for Chuitna

Mining companies involved with several important projects aren’t ready to press the button on construction just yet, but they are positioning things to be ready to go when metals and commodity prices tick up, as they surely will.

One large project being watched closely is Donlin Gold in the mid-Kuskokwim River region west of Anchorage, a potential $6.7 billion surface gold mine.

Attorney General grilled over transparency

Before the Alaska Legislature overwhelmingly approved the state’s buyout of TransCanada’s share of the big Alaska LNG Project on Nov. 4, there were some moments of drama.

Committee briefings were mostly heavy on numbers and legalese. What could have added some excitement, Gov. Bill Walker’s gas reserves tax, was pulled from the session agenda by Walker just before legislators convened.

Legislature approves TransCanada buyout

The state of Alaska will now own more of the big Alaska LNG Project. It will have to shell out more money for it, too.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund may have to be put up as collateral, also.

Legislators have been meeting in special session in Juneau since Oct. 24 to review Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal for the state to buy out TransCanada’s share of the planned $45 billion to $65 billion pipeline and liquefied gas project.

On Nov. 3 and 4, the state Senate (16-3) and House (39-0) gave their approvals.

State board sets new method for workers’ comp payments

The state has adopted a new method for paying physicians and other health providers for services provided under Workers’ Compensation to injured workers.

New regulations were adopted Oct. 29 by the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board, which met in Anchorage. The change is aimed at slowing an annual rise in medical payments under workers’ compensation claims that result partly because of the payment formula.

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