For Sale: Alaskan Waters Up for Grabs in MMS Lease Sale
Set for Feb. 6, 2008, the Chukchi Sea Sale 193 is the first Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas lease sale in the area in 17 years. On Jan. 3, 2008, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued information on the sale area, terms, conditions and environmental requirements, as well as royalty suspensions on production due to price thresholds.
Seen as one of the last frontier areas in North America, the Chukchi Sea is located on the edge of the Arctic Ocean between Alaska and Siberia. MMS estimates that the area could contain 15 billion barrels of oil, although further exploration will determine how much oil and gas are commercially viable to extract.
The Chukchi Sea Sale 193 includes 29.7 million acres offshore Alaska, extending about 25 or 50 to 200 miles offshore. The acreage contains land north of Point Barrow to northwest of Cape Lisburne.
Taking great care to provide for environmental issues, including the bowhead and beluga whales, as well as other mammals and marine birds, the MMS has set out requirements for E&P companies that protect the environment. Additionally, the agency funds extensive environmental studies and will continue to do so as the land is explored and developed.
"We believe our decision is a good balance and will allow companies to explore this intriguing frontier area while still protecting the resources important to the coastal residents," said Randall Luthi, director of the MMS. "All leases will be subject to MMS's existing regulations that include extensive requirements for safety, drilling operations and pollution prevention, plus regulations of other agencies protecting marine mammals, endangered species and air and water quality."
The Chukchi Sea has only experienced two other lease sales, in 1988 and 1991. All of the 379 leases issued in those sales have expired.