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Alaska nets $28.1 million in North Slope and Beaufort Sea oil lease sales

A drill rig works for Repsol at its Colville Delta operations in 2014. Repsol won a dozen leases at the annual state North Slope lease sale with bids released Nov. 15. The company along with Armstrong Energy discovered the promising Pikka prospect in 2014 that's now under development. (Photo/Courtesy/Repsol)

Exploration interest remained high in the state’s North Slope and Beaufort Sea annual lease sales held Thursday morning, which netted $28.1 million for the state treasury.

Winning bids for the North Slope portion of the sale totaled about $27.3 million, the third highest amount since 1998, according to Division of Oil and Gas Director Chantal Walsh.

Successful bidders spent about $848,000 for near shore Beaufort Sea leases, which is in line with historical averages, Walsh said.

The state received bids on 133 tracts covering 223,680 onshore North Slope acres, and eight Beaufort Sea tracts totaling 20,270 acres garnered bids, according to division officials.

“We have a lot to be happy about — a very good lease sale,” Walsh said.

A new player to Alaska, Lagniappe Alaska LLC, dominated the sealed-bid sale by winning rights to approximately 120 leases over a large area south of Deadhorse along the Dalton Highway. State officials present at the sale knew little about Lagniappe and audience members speculated among themselves how to spell it (pronounced lan-yap) as the bids were read aloud.

Lagniappe Alaska LLC was formed in the state on Nov. 7 and is based in Lafayette, Louisiana, according to filings with the state Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.

No one came forward when Deputy Oil and Gas Director Jim Beckham asked if a Lagniappe representative was present at the bid opening.

“We appreciate our new player,” Walsh said.

Not to be outdone, Italian major Repsol, which along with Armstrong Energy discovered the large Pikka prospect, spent between $175 and $586 per acre on the few remaining available leases just to the south and east of the Pikka Unit.

“Repsol is definitely here to play,” Walsh commented.

Caracol Petroleum and ASRC Exploration also bid on several of the dozen leases Repsol won.

Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search, which recently took over as operator of the Pikka Unit and is advancing the Nanushuk project, won several Beaufort Sea leases just offshore from Pikka.

The one minor disappointment for state officials was a lack of interest in the three Special Alaska Lease Sale Areas, or SALSAs, that the Division of Oil and Gas put up for bid for the first time.

Despite coming with publicly available geologic data, the SALSAs — each covering multiple lease tracts — garnered no bids.

Walsh said she is still happy the division took the time to compile and advertise the areas as it directed more traffic to the division’s website than ever before and gave officials insight into how to better direct interested parties to publicly available oil and gas geologic and well data.

She added the concept of selling multiple leases in blocks is something the state will continue to evaluate but it’s too soon to tell if the current SALSAs will be put up for bid again in their current form.

The Bureau of Land Management’s annual lease sale for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is scheduled for Dec. 12 and will cover 2.8 million acres, according to a BLM release.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

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