Alaska News

State, BLM schedule back-to-back Arctic oil lease sales in November

Federal and state agencies have teamed up for a fourth time to hold jointly scheduled oil and gas lease sales next month for territory across Arctic Alaska.

The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management have scheduled lease sales for Nov. 19, the agencies said in separate statements. The Alaska sales -- for state territory on the central North Slope, in the Brooks Range foothills and in near-shore waters of the Beaufort Sea -- will be in the morning, officials said in their announcement. The BLM's sale, offering leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the western North Slope, will be in the afternoon.

The three state sales will offer available onshore and offshore tracts in a region that sprawls over about 14 million acres. The BLM sale will offer 270 tracts covering about 3 million acres in the eastern part of the 23 million-acre NPR-A, the federal agency said in a formal lease announcement issued Thursday.

The state and federal agencies began coordinating their North Slope-area lease sales in 2011 after President Obama directed the BLM to hold the National Petroleum Reserve sales annually.

The BLM-state lease sale coordination has worked well, said BLM spokeswoman K.J. Mushovic.

"Operators appreciate it. Industry appreciates it," she said. Though the back-to-back lease sales make for "a long day," she said, "I think it's more convenient for everyone."

For the BLM, the NPR-A sale will be the 10th in a series of modern lease sales that began in 1999.


"The November sale is in line with the administration's commitment to expand domestic energy production," the BLM's national director, Neil Korne, said in a statement. "The BLM has taken a balanced approach to development in the NPR-A to ensure that future production is done safely and responsibly while protecting the subsistence resources of Alaska Natives and the habitat of world-class wildlife populations."

Currently, there are 207 active leases in the reserve covering more than 1.75 million acres, the BLM said.

For the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas, the North Slope, Beaufort and Foothills lease offerings are part of a program of annual areawide lease sales that dates back to the late 1990s.

Most of Alaska's oil development and production has been on state lands on the central North Slope, site of the super-giant Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk oil fields. Oil development activities elsewhere in Arctic Alaska have been more limited.

There has never been commercial oil production in NPR-A, even though the Indiana-size land unit was established in 1923 specifically as a site for future oil and gas development. Only exploration drilling has occurred so far, with ConocoPhillips leading most of the activity.

Oil production from the petroleum reserve could occur in the near future, however. ConocoPhillips is seeking to start production by the end of 2015 at a field called CD-5 on Native-owned land within the petroleum reserve boundaries. After that -- possibly two years later -- ConocoPhillips is hoping to start production at a site farther west called the Greater Mooses Tooth Unit. The development plans are being evaluated by the BLM and other agencies.

Yereth Rosen

Yereth Rosen was a reporter for Alaska Dispatch News.