Yereth Rosen

Two oil companies working to develop what they say will be a big new oil field in the Colville River Delta area announced Tuesday that they are shifting their ownership split in the project. But a decision to put off drilling this winter means about 500 contract slope workers won't be hired. Repsol , a Spanish energy company, and privately held, Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas Inc., have agreed to “strategically re-align their interests in their Alaska North Slope exploration and development venture,” Armstrong said in a statement . The resulting deal, worth over $800 million, will give Armstrong majority ownership in both the development area and the exploration area where the companies have drilled 16 wildcat and appraisal wells in the past four years, the statement said. Under the...Yereth Rosen
Microplastics , the tiny plastic particles that are accumulating in marine waters and big lakes around the world, are now showing up in the Arctic waters south and southwest of Svalbard, Norway, a new study says. The study, published in the open-access journal Nature Scientific Reports , is the first documentation of microplastics in those waters, raising concerns that the tiny pieces of plastic litter are entering the Arctic food web. Water samples taken during a June 2014 research cruise showed that microplastics are ubiquitous in that region. Nearly all of the water samples wound up containing microplastics, the researchers found.That was the case for water samples were taken at the surface and for those taken, with the use of pumps, six meters below the surface, though the deeper...Yereth Rosen
The annual Alaska Permanent Fund dividend fattens more than bank accounts, according to one new study from South Korea. The annual dividend payout has helped increase birth weights for Alaska newborns, argues the study, which was authored by economists at Hallym University in Chuncheon and Korea University in Seoul and published in the journal Economic Inquiry. The infusion of money “modestly improves newborns’ health at birth,” increasing weight by 34.8 grams (1.23 ounces) and reducing the likelihood of low birth weight by 14 percent in the early years of the dividend program, according to the statistical study by the authors. Lower birth weights are correlated with higher rates of infant mortality and a variety of negative health and social outcomes later in life. The study is limited...Yereth Rosen
Fresh from what some environmentalists claim is a victory that forced Shell to drop its ambitious plans to search for oil in Arctic waters off Alaska , the Sierra Club is urging supporters to rise up to stop a separate offshore Alaska energy project An emailed message from the Sierra Club declares that “another drilling threat has come to light” -- the proposed new oil production at the offshore Liberty unit in the Beaufort Sea. “Even though Shell has announced they will end oil exploration off of Alaska's Arctic Coast 'for the foreseeable future,' another oil company -- Hilcorp Alaska LLC -- is trying to obtain permits to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Now, it's up to dedicated activists like you to make sure they never get the opportunity to drill,” said the message from Dan Ritzman,...Yereth Rosen
When Royal Dutch Shell announced that it had lost its big-money bet in the Chukchi Sea and would end its entire program in the offshore U.S. Arctic, the hyperbole and finger-pointing began in earnest. Rep. Don Young accused President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell of deliberately sabotaging Alaska’s economy. “I’m sure somewhere Sally Jewell and President Obama are smiling and celebrating Shell’s decision to cease operations off the coast of Alaska,” Young said in a statement issued just after Shell's announcement. At the other end of the spectrum, the Sierra Club sent out celebratory alerts to members that congratulated them for Shell ending its exploration after disappointing well results. “This is your victory! You have shown that even the most powerful corporations in the...Yereth Rosen
After pouring billions of dollars into offshore Arctic leases and a complicated drilling program that used the latest available technology, oil explorers were confident that they would strike a gusher and open up a new northern petroleum frontier. The plan went bust and the explorers walked away. Royal Dutch Shell in the Chukchi Sea in 2015? No, it was the notorious Mukluk flop, which became known as the world’s most expensive dry hole. The Mukluk prospect in the Beaufort Sea had been touted in the early 1980s by BP Exploration Alaska predecessor Sohio Alaska Petroleum and its partners as a potential second Prudhoe Bay. Press coverage at the time repeated the hype. “The Mukluk Prospect: Has Sohio Struck It Rich Again in Alaska?” a Barron’s headline asked in August 1983. The answer, which...Yereth Rosen
1918 Shell geologists take their first look at Alaska. 1952 Shell starts first Alaska geological maps, a project that continued until 1964. 1958 Shell and Humble Oil and Refining Co. drill onshore Bear Creek No. 1 wildcat well on the Alaska Peninsula. 1963 Shell, using a drilling vessel in Cook Inlet, drills the first offshore oil field in Alaska, the Middle Ground Shoal No. 1 discovery well. 1964 Shell installs a permanent offshore drilling and production structure in Middle Shoal Ground in Cook Inlet, the first of 16 offshore platforms. Drilling begins there in 1965. 1976 Shell drills the first exploratory well in the Gulf of Alaska, which is plugged and abandoned. 1979 Shell acquires Beaufort Sea leases in federal lease sale. 1982 Shell completes Seal Island well in the Beaufort Sea,...Yereth Rosen
The Arctic waters off Alaska are, in a sense, off the charts -- poorly understood and lightly mapped. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking to change that and also asking the public to weigh in on its plan to create new, detailed and modern Arctic navigational charts. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is accepting public comments until Thursday on its draft 2015 U.S. Arctic Navigational Charting Plan , released in June. The new plan updates an earlier version issued in 2011. That earlier version resulted in the completion of three new navigational charts that were issued last year. The new plan proposes 11 more navigational charts for areas ranging from the Alaska Peninsula to waters off Barrow. U.S. Arctic waters hold 426,000 square nautical miles of oceans and bays...Yereth Rosen
When the Bering Sea warms, there are telltale signs. One is a bloom of phytoplankton that turns the water’s normally gray surface to a lovely turquoise. “It does feel like you’re in the Caribbean,” said Janet Duffy-Anderson, a research biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Center. Though it is pretty, that bloom means ugly conditions for much of the sea life in the Bering Sea, the source of about half of the commercially harvested seafood in the United States. The phytoplankton creating the turquoise bloom is coccolithophoe , a tiny marine plant that thrives in warm, nutrient-poor conditions, “so they are a harbinger of problems when they are in the Bering Sea,” Duffy-Anderson said. This is the second consecutive year the Bering Sea has been...Yereth Rosen
The new operator of a long-delayed offshore oil prospect in the Beaufort Sea is moving forward with a new plan modeled on old fields. Hilcorp Energy Co. , the privately held, Texas-based exploration and production company that acquired many of BP Plc’s Alaska assets, has completed its plan to develop the offshore Liberty prospect and start producing oil from it, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Friday. The new Liberty development and production plan is deemed “submitted,” according to BOEM terminology, meaning that public review and a formal environmental impact statement will start. Liberty , estimated by BOEM to hold 150 million barrels of recoverable oil, is about 5.5 miles offshore and about 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. The prospect, which got its start in the 1980s as a...Yereth Rosen