ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. is planning a two-well exploration program this year at the western end of its Greater Mooses Tooth unit in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

In early January, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued drilling permits for the Tinmiaq No. 2 and Tinmiaq No. 6 exploration wells in the federal unit extending due west from the village of Nuiqsut.

Tinmiaq No. 2 would be at the southern end of lease AA 81807, northwest of the Grandview No. 1 well. Tinmiaq No. 6 would be at the north end of lease AA 81808, west of the proposed Spark No. 7 well. Both wells would be vertical holes, targeting oil.

Greater Mooses Tooth can be divided into three regions: eastern, central and western.

ConocoPhillips recently sanctioned a $900 million GMT-1 development at the eastern end of the unit, at lease AA 81798. The project includes construction of a drilling pad, a 7.7-mile road and associated facilities and pipelines and an initial nine-well drilling program with the capacity for 33 wells. The timeline calls for production by late 2018.

At the same time, ConocoPhillips is permitting the GMT-2 development in the southcentral portion of the unit, near lease AA 81781. In late August 2015, the company applied for a federal permit to drill the GMT2-R112 oil well on lease AA 81800. While the projects are prone to change over time, ConocoPhillips previously outlined a GMT-2 project with a base plan of 10 wells and the potential for as many as 19 wells.

The Tinmiaq wells are farther west than any previous drilling in the unit. In May 2001, before forming the unit, Phillips Alaska Inc. announced oil discoveries from the Spark No. 1, Spark No. 1A, Moose's Tooth C, Lookout No. 1, Rendezvous A and Rendezvous No. 2 wells. Except for the Lookout well in the northeast corner of the unit, all of those wells were clustered in the center of the unit. In subsequent years, the company drilled various exploration wells in the east and south of the unit, including Pioneer No. 1 and Grandview No. 1 in early 2009 and Rendezvous No. 3 and Flat Top No. 1 in early 2014.

ConocoPhillips has been pursuing a strategy of infrastructure-led exploration in Alaska.

Instead of drilling wildcat wells on isolated leases in search of large discoveries, the company has been gradually stepping out from its existing developments in search of modest discoveries. The strategy is responsible for increasing the importance of the Alaska segment as the global company struggles to respond to declining oil prices.

Toward the end of 2015, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance said, "Over the past couple of years, we've been able to change the profile of our Alaska business. We've transformed the declining production base into one that can deliver stable production for a decade."