BLM publishes final supplemental analysis for ConocoPhillips’ Willow Master Development Plan in Alaska
The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Office recently released the final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for ConocoPhillips’s proposed Willow Master Development Plan in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The document addresses the flaws identified by the US District Court for the District of Alaska in its August 2021 vacatur of the previous approval of the project.
ConocoPhillips estimates that the Willow Project will produce 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak and deliver $8 billion to $17 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the state of Alaska and North Slope Borough communities.
The BLM has identified a preferred alternative in the final SEIS. Alternative E removes one of the five proposed drill sites from consideration and defers consideration of another. Additional environmental analysis would be required to move forward with the deferred fourth pad, and the final record of decision may identify additional deferrals.
Alternative E would reduce of project footprint in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area by more than 40%. The three core drill sites in Alternative E (BT1, BT2, and BT3) reflect an integrated design concept and provide a viable path forward for development, according to ConocoPhillips.
The final environmental analysis is not a final decision regarding the proposed project, which will be issued no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the Notice of Availability.
ConocoPhillips Alaska intends to initiate gravel road construction immediately once all necessary approvals are in place, and then proceed to a final investment decision. Planning is currently in progress and mobilization could start as soon as February. Additional North Slope construction activities for Willow will occur throughout the summer and fall. Concurrently, material fabrication will begin in US facilities and the pace of contracting and procurement will increase.
The BLM consulted with eight cooperating agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corp of Engineers, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, North Slope Borough, State of Alaska, US Environmental Protection Agency, Native Village of Nuiqsut, and City of Nuiqsut, as well as external stakeholders in the development of the final SEIS.
ConocoPhillips is Alaska’s largest oil producer and has been a leader in oil and gas exploration and development in the state for more than 50 years. In 2016, the company drilled two exploration wells that encountered significant pay in the Bear Tooth Unit. This discovery, Willow, is located in the northeast portion of the NPR-A. In 2018, the company appraised the greater Willow area and made discoveries in three additional prospects.
The Willow project is expected to produce approximately 600 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMBOE) over the life of the project.
Environmental groups oppose the project.