MMS Issues Call for Nominations in Alaska

The U.S. Interior Department's Minerals Management Service has issued a call for information and nominations for the North Basin in the northern Bering Sea, the Chukchi Sea and Hope Basin. The MMS is trying to determine whether any companies want to drill in any of these areas on Alaska far northwestern coast. "We're trying to make it attractive for companies to come in and explore in these frontier areas," said agency spokeswoman Robin Cacy.

Last year the MMS issued a similar solicitation for the Norton Sound lease sale, but did not receive any interest. If this happens again this year, Cacy said the MMS would stop the process again and re-offer it next year. The MMS five-year plan for Alaska includes these areas for potential lease sales, but only if there is some demonstrated industry interest, she said. The agency's "call for information" will expire in 90 days.

The Norton Basin could hold 2.7 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and the Chukchi Sea-Hope Basin region could hold 3.4 trillion cubic feet, according to mean resource estimates, the MMS said. The agency believes it could be possible for a company to sell some of that gas to a regional market, "realizing that there's no infrastructure in either area," Cacy said. That part of Alaska is sparsely populated. The biggest communities are Barrow, the northernmost U.S. settlement and home to about 4,400 people, and Nome, which has about 3,500 residents. The last time this area of Alaska saw exploration was in the 1970s.

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