Privately held Hilcorp Energy Company has submitted a new plan to federal regulators for developing the long-languishing Liberty prospect, one of several assets that the Houston-based company acquired from BP.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Tuesday its Alaska regional office received Hilcorp Alaska LLC's development and production plan for Liberty, located in federal territory of the Beaufort Sea outercontinental shelf.
The plan envisions developing Liberty from a gravel island to be built in the Beaufort's shallow waters, BOEM said in a brief statement.
Liberty, about 6 miles offshore and about 18.5 miles east of Prudhoe Bay, was once expected to become the first producing oil field in federal waters off Alaska. BP previously hoped to start production there in 2011, and had planned to develop the field by using ultra-extended-reach wells that could drill from existing shore sites.
But the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 and associated questions about the safety and feasibility of BP's ultra-extended-reach-drilling idea caused the company to drop that plan in 2012. BP more recently floated the idea of a man-made island, similar to the system it used to develop the offshore Northstar field.
Hilcorp, which acquired half of Liberty, as well as its status as the prospect's operator, has now officially scrapped the idea of drilling the oil from afar. Instead, the company's development and production plan proposes construction of an artificial island about 5.6 miles offshore where drilling and processing would occur, BOEM said in its statement.
"In this respect, the plan is similar to the company's Northstar Facility, located about 50 km to the northwest, which began production in October 2001," BOEM said.
Along with its 50 percent interest in Liberty, Hilcorp acquired the Northstar and Endicott fields in their entirety and a 50 percent interest in BP's Milne Point field. Hilcorp has become operator of all four fields.
BOEM said it has 25 working days to complete a preliminary review of Hilcorp's plan "to assess whether it includes all the required components." Once that is accomplished, BOEM said it "must either formally deem the DPP submitted, which triggers further regulatory review and a review under the National Environmental Policy Act; or let Hilcorp know what additional information would be required in order to deem the DPP submitted."
There will be opportunities for public comment on Hilcorp's Liberty plan, BOEM said.
A Hilcorp spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment late Tuesday.