Point Thomson ROD still pending
Oct 25, 2012 (Menafn - Alaska Journal of Commerce - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --ExxonMobil Corp. and its contractors are anxiously waiting for a final permit decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Point Thomson development project, which would be the largest North Slope project in years.
The Corps must issue a Record of Decision, or ROD, on the final environmental impact statement for Point Thomson, a multi-billion dollar gas and condensate liquids development project. ExxonMobil needs the ROD before it can secure other permits and authorize contractors to proceed.
State officials have issued critical state permits needed to begin work on the project, state Commissioner of Natural Resources Dan Sullivan has said, but the final Corps approval of the Record of Decision is needed for the federal permits to be issued.
The Corps originally estimated it would have its decision in mid-to-late September but Corps spokeswoman Pat Richardson said those dates are only a target. The agency is now working hard to get the decision out as soon as possible, she said.
The timing is critical because ExxonMobil needs time to secure the final permits and to mobilize for winter construction, which the company has said could employ as many as 1,000 workers.
Work must be done in November and December on a 60-mile artificial ice road from Prudhoe Bay to Point Thomson to allow heavy equipment and supplies to be moved.
The company plans to also do gravel placement this winter on roads and pads. Vertical Support Members would also be placed for an approximate 20-mile pipeline to connect Point Thomson with an existing 25-mile pipeline that extends east from Prudhoe Bay to the small Badami oil field.
Construction of production facilities at Point Thomson and the drilling of additional wells would occur over the next two winter seasons if work gets under way this winter.
Being able to begin work on the project this winter, and not to have construction slip another year, is critical to keeping the project on schedule to begin production in 2016 or 2017.
North Slope construction is typically done in the winter.
Point Thomson is a large gas and condensate liquids deposit that was discovered in the 1970s but never developed because of challenging technical conditions -- the gas field is at very high pressure -- and because that without a gas pipeline there is no way to market the gas.
In recent years the company developed a concept for a gas cycling project there that would produce the gas and remove liquid condensates, which are in the gas, and market them separately.
The current project is being done to ship 10,000 barrels a day of condensates to Prudhoe Bay to mix with crude oil in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. It is considered a first phase of Point Thomson development, to test whether the gas cycling project will work as expected.
If it does work, the project can be scale up to produce more condensates. If its doesn't, the facilities being built can be used to support conventional gas production when a gas pipeline is built or to ship gas to Prudhoe Bay to aid in additional oil recovery there.
The pipeline being built to Point Thomson is considered a strategic extension of infrastructure to the eastern North Slope, however, because it will aid in new oil development there, both onshore and offshore.
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