Tim Bradner

Shell presses on despite issues with vessel

Shell’s summer Chukchi Sea exploration is facing its share of glitches. The striking of a shallow, uncharted shoal by the ice management vessel Fennica, part of Shell’s support fleet, resulted in hull damage that is sending it back to the Pacific Northwest for repairs.

The Fenneca, being guided by a licensed Alaska marine pilot, hit an the uncharted obstacle while departing Dutch Harbor July 3.

A temporary patch can be put on in that Aleutians port but a permanent repair must be done at a shipyard and that will be in Vigor Industrial’s Portland, Oregon yard, Shell said.

Discussion begins on tax credits

Alaska’s explorer and small producer tax credit program has been capped for this year but the program is still on the books and applications for credits are still being accepted, state Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck said.

There is $500 million in the budget for the program and that’s enough to pay for tax credits that have been applied for, which total about $475 million, the commissioner said.

That leaves $25 million for the year, and if more applications come in the companies, mostly small independents, will have to accept an IOU from the state.

City manager says repairs underway on vessel

Shell is being cautious on whether damage to an ice-handling vessel near Dutch Harbor will affect the company’s 2015 Chukchi Sea exploration. The 380-foot Fennica hit a submerged object, possibly World War II debris, while departing July 3 and was returned to port.

“Repairs may be possible on site (in Dutch Harbor) but that’s still being determined,” Shell spokesman Luke Miller said.

Furie nears first production from Kitchen Lights field

Furie Operating Alaska will begin producing natural gas in November from a newly installed production platform at its Kitchen Lights gas discovery in Cook Inlet, the company said.

It has been a long haul for the company, which entered Alaska as Escopeta Oil and Gas several years ago.

The initial producing rate will be 15 million to 20 million cubic feet per day but that will increase as more customers are lined up, said Bruce Webb, a Furie vice president. The identity of the current customer cannot be disclosed, Webb said.

Production off, but price better than forecast

Alaska oil and gas production averaged 502,000 barrels per day in Fiscal Year 2015, the state’s budget year that ended June 30, according to preliminary data compiled by the state Department of Revenue.

That is less than the 508,000 barrels per day average predicted in the spring, 2015 production forecast update but Revenue officials expect the average to be adjusted upward in mid-August when the final numbers are calculated, according to Ken Alper, director of the department’s Tax Division.

Fiscal year 2016 budget deficit estimated at $3.7 billion

Gov. Bill Walker’s approved fiscal year 2016 state budget will require a draw of $2.7 billion from the state Constitutional Budget Reserve, a ready asset fund, according to state budget director Pat Pitney.

The draw on the CBR is lower than the actual deficit of about $3.7 billion because the Legislature opted to transfer $1 billion from the Public Education Fund, a budget reserve used to do advance-funding for school districts.

Hilcorp acquires additional Inlet oil assets

Hilcorp Alaska will purchase XTO Energy assets in the Middle Ground Shoal of Cook Inlet and is also studying a possible restart of a shut-in platform in the field.

Two oil-producing platforms, tank facilities and an office and support facilities at Nikiski, near Kenai, are included in the purchase deal with XTO, the company said in a statement issued July 6.

“Hilcorp anticipates making offers to all 31 employees that currently operate the Middle Ground Shoal assets,” spokeswoman Lori Nelson wrote in an email.

Walker vetoes exploration tax credits to start 'discussion'

Gov. Bill Walker vetoed $200 million in funding for oil exploration and development tax credits in a budget action on June 30, in effect capping the program at $500 million for state fiscal year 2016 that began July 1.

The program was previously budgeted at $700 million.

“This has been a tough budget year and no sector, from senior citizens to low-income Alaskans, or oil and gas explorers, is left untouched,” Walker said in a July 1 press conference.

Feige aims to put welcome mat out for explorers

When producing companies and hopeful oil explorers stop by the state Division of Oil and Gas these days they find the welcome mat laid out by Corri Feige, the division’s new director.

Feige took over the division in late April following the departure of Bill Barron, the previous director.

Independent consortium plans shale play exploration well

There is more test drilling planned in a potential Alaska shale oil play south of the Prudhoe Bay field on the North Slope.

Australia-based 88 Energy LLC and a partner, Houston-based Burgundy Xploration, will drill from a location adjacent to the Dalton Highway 35 miles south of Prudhoe, 88 Energy president David Wall said in an interview. The companies have dubbed their program “Icewine.”

Economist: State must shore up finances to support AK LNG

A senior economist with a leading U.S. policy think-tank told an Institute of the North audience June 23 that the state had best get its financial house in order because an instability could undermine the Alaska LNG Project.

Alaska has a big opportunity with its proposed large natural gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas export project but there’s a lot of competition in the world of LNG and the success of the Alaska LNG Project is not a sure bet, said Dr. Margo Thorning, vice president and chief economist for the American Council for Capital Formation.

Shell to revamp Chukchi plan after FWS limits drilling

Shell has received one of its final federal permits for 2015 summer exploration in the Chukchi Sea, but with a twist.

A Letter of Authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dealing with walruses and polar bears will require drilling vessels to be 15 miles apart if drilling simultaneously.

Shell’s initial prospects it hopes to drill first, “Burger V” and Burger “J” are closer than that. The company says it’s too early how the restriction will affect the summer operation.

Cook's exploration left lasting impression on Alaska

Editor’s note: This is the conclusion in a series of articles by the Journal of Commerce recognizing the Anchorage Centennial and examining the events and the industries that have shaped Alaska’s largest city. The series is now available as a single special edition of the Journal at centennial events throughout the summer.

For Alaskans, the story of Captain James Cook’s exploration of Cook Inlet in search of the Northwest Passage is deeply woven into the history and identity of Anchorage.

Caelus expands North Slope assets

Caelus Energy LLC has acquired a 75 percent working interest ownership in state-owned offshore Alaskan Beaufort Sea leases held by NordAq Energy, an Alaska independent based in Anchorage. The agreement was to be finalized on June 18, Caelus said in a press release.

The company owns and operates the small offshore Oooguruk field on the North Slope, and is also currently engaged in developing a new onshore production pad near that field, Nuna. Caelus acquired the Oooguruk and Nuna assets from Pioneer Natural Resources for $300 million in 2014.

Gov says amendment needed for gas tax

NIKISKI — Gov. Bill Walker is taking industry partners in the Alaska LNG Project to task for delays in resolving key issues affecting the large North Slope gas initiative.

“We have identified a lack of urgency in the parties’ resolution process,” the governor wrote in a June 15 letter to state legislators.

In addition, the governor said that the state now believes a constitutional amendment is needed for a long-term fiscal agreement covering tax terms with the North Slope producers.

AGDC releases 'offtake' plans

The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. has developed preliminary designs for “offtake” facilities that would allow communities to take natural gas from a large-diameter gas pipeline, if one were built.

The designs were presented to AGDC’s board of directors at its June 11 meeting.

UA Fairbanks leading way on Arctic research

FAIRBANKS — What may be the world’s biggest conference on Arctic science will be held next March at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

About 800 to 1,000 scientists and government officials from around the world will be gather on UAF’s campus, said Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Larry Hinzman.

The meeting — actually dozens of meetings and workshops — will happen over the university’s spring break, which means dormitory space will be available with students temporarily off the campus.

The spillover will be a boon for Fairbanks hotels and restaurants.

Walker pitches TransCanada buyout

Gov. Bill Walker is considering ending the state’s relationship with TransCanada Corp. in the big Alaska LNG Project and taking over a full 25 percent share of the project.

In an interview June 7 in Fairbanks, Walker said that he is weighing the takeover option along with keeping TransCanada in the consortium under the current structure. Under that arrangement TransCanada would ship state-owned gas though its share of pipeline capacity.

Walker seeks input to balance budget

Pick your poison: State income tax? State sales tax? A “cap” on Permanent Fund dividends? Draconian cuts to public services? A hike in oil taxes?

It’s time for Alaskans to make decisions, say Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

There’s no escaping the reality that the state’s tough fiscal situation will continue. Oil revenues are sharply down, and multi-billion-dollar budget deficits are projected that will drain state cash reserves by 2019, leaving only the Permanent Fund and its earnings.

Walker requests acceleration on AK LNG

Gov. Bill Walker said May 29 he’s about “half-way” through a 45-day review of the Alaska LNG Project partnership terms and said he’s pleased at what he’s seen so far of the details, which are confidential.

The state is a partner in the Alaska LNG Project along with North Slope producers BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, as well as pipeline company TransCanada.


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