U.S. To Assess Holding Oil, Gas Lease Sale In Offshore Arctic

The U.S. Department of the Interior said on Thursday that it intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a potential 2019 oil and gas lease sale in the Beaufort Sea in federal Arctic waters.

The environmental impact statement will “focus on the potential effects of leasing, exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas in the proposed lease sale area,” the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said in a Federal Register notice.

The Beaufort Sea Planning Area offshore Alaska consists of 11,876 whole and partial lease blocks covering roughly 65 million acres of the Beaufort Sea.

The Notice of Intent is not an announcement to hold a lease sale, but is a continuation of the information gathering process, BOEM noted.

According to analysts, a possible lease sale could attract some companies, but appetite for the sale—if it is held—will be very limited because of the harsh weather, high drilling and development costs, resistance from environmental groups, and uncertainty over federal oil and gas lease sale policies if U.S. President Donald Trump is not re-elected in 2020.

“At this time, we do not forecast any new Arctic offshore production since we believe that even if a discovery is made, it will take very long to place it on production due to costs and environmental issues and it would be beyond our forecast period, which ends in 2040,” S&P Global Platts Analytics analyst Rene Santos said.

Last month, BOEM approved Hilcorp Alaska’s drilling project for the Liberty prospect in the Beaufort Sea, and this was the first approval for a drilling project in Alaska federal waters.

Last December, the Department of the Interior said that an updated resource estimate showed that the mean undiscovered, technically recoverable resources both on and offshore in federal, state, and Native lands and waters in Alaska include 17.6 billion barrels of oil and more than 50 trillion cubic feet of gas.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com