Exxon Offers Dispensation for Delayed Field Development in Alaska

Exxon Mobil Corp. offered Alaska more than $20 million and 20,000 acres of leased land last week in exchange for more time to develop the Point Thomson natural gas field.

Several deadlines have passed, the latest being Oct. 20, for Exxon to submit a revised development plan for the long-dormant field that holds an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Exxon's Alaska Production Manager Richard Owen said the company would pay the state $20 million and surrender 20,000 acres around the edges of the 105,000-acre Point Thomson area. In exchange, the company would have until 2009 to drill an assessment well in the gas field. Exxon also said it would pay the state an additional $40 million if it did not sink that well either.

The field was discovered on state land nearly 30 years ago but none of the owners have developed the area thus far, despite having submitted some 22 development plans. Exxon, which owns 53 percent of Point Thomson, had failed over the years to make good on drilling and other commitments on the field.

The state had no comment on the proposal, but former Gov. Tony Knowles (D) -- who is running to succeed outgoing Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) -- said he was not impressed by the $20 million offer given that that was already owed under a previous agreement made during his tenure as governor.

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