ExxonMobil Gets Go-Ahead for Point Thomson Drilling Campaign

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources recently reversed its previous ruling, allowing ExxonMobil to drill two wells on two permits in the Point Thomson, North Slope area of Alaska.

In a release from the governmental office on Jan. 27, 2009, Commissioner Tim Irwin "conditionally reinstated" two leases, reserving his rulings on the remaining leases. The reinstatement of the leases is dependent on ExxonMobil commencing drilling operations during the winter season, completing the wells by 2010 and starting up production on the project by 2014.

First reported by the Anchorage Daily News, ExxonMobil has been unable to move forward with developing the area due to a governmental lock-out. The conditional decision gives ExxonMobil the go-ahead to develop two of its 31 Point Thomson leases.

Additionally, the decision authorized the processing of a permit for an ice road required to transport equipment to the field.

Not only generating hundreds of jobs for the region, developing Point Thomson will contribute to and help to actualize an Alaska gas pipeline, recently outlined by US President Obama's administration as a priority in its energy policy.

"The future of availability of Point Thomson gas is essential to the success of an Alaska gas pipeline project," said Craig Haymes, the Alaska production manager for ExxonMobil.

Point Thomson Development

In February 2008, ExxonMobil unveiled a $1.3 billion project to develop and produce petroleum from Point Thomson, submitting the field development plan to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The plan included a phased approach, with initial production commencing in 2014 at a rate of 200 MMcf/d.

Alaskan company Nanuq Inc. was chosen in July 2008 to build the approximately 50 miles of ice roads needed, as well as an air strip. Additionally, initial barging of equipment was completed in August 2008. Then, ExxonMobil stated that it was waiting for governmental permits to perform full field operations.

Point Thomson is located approximately 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska's North Slope. An extraordinarily challenging development, the field is estimated to hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and millions of barrels of oil. ExxonMobil serves as the operator of the field, and there are 23 other Point Thomson owners.