ExxonMobil Wrangles to Recover Revoked Alaskan Leases

Having lost some of its rights to hunt for hydrocarbons on Alaska's North Slope, Exxon Mobil Corp. is forging ahead to regain control over several leases within the gas-rich region.

Citing a lack of progress developing the region over several decades, the state government has wrangled with the US-oil major over its Alaskan leases for years and has recently denied Exxon's petition to take back its drilling rights at Point Thomson, reports Dow Jones Newswires.

In February 2009, Exxon returned eight of the 13 Point Thomson leases added in 2002 back to the state after failing to initiate drilling. The Anchorage Daily News reported that the oil major planned to turn on the taps at Point Thomson by 2014 as part of an agreement with the state to add the leases to Exxon's portfolio. However, Exxon never kicked off its initial drilling program within the four years as promised to the state.

Under recent dispute, Exxon's license, or "operating unit," had granted the corporation an authority to develop the oil and gas leases it held, along with those held by other companies, at Point Thomson, an area that could deliver natural gas resources to the lower-48 states via pipeline, according to Dow Jones.

Last week, the State of Alaska denied Exxon's petition to form a new oil and gas operating unit at Point Thomson. Specifically, the oil major asked the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to combine the leases of other operating companies in the region into one unit operated by Exxon to spur development. The corporation, which touts a surefire initiative to develop its Alaskan assets, could still repeal the decision in court, the report noted.

Exxon is currently mulling a number of legal actions in order to retain its Point Thomson rights.

According to Exxon spokeswoman Margaret Ross, the corporation will work with Alaska's Department of Natural Resources "to reach settlement of all Point Thomson issues so that this important resource can be put on production." She added, "We're proceeding with the initial project work."

The initial work includes the drilling of two wells at the Point Thomson site, which Gov. Sarah Palin commended in a statement issued Monday: "We held Exxon to their long-held commitment to develop in Point Thomson because our state and nation are counting on Alaska's energy supplies to secure us."


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