In October 2018, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced it approved an oil and gas development and production plan from Hilcorp Alaska for a new facility. Called the Liberty Project, the facility, if finished, would be the first of its type in federal waters off the Alaska coast.
Hilcorp’s Proposal: Breaking Things Down
Under the current proposal, Hilcorp Alaska plans an artificial gravel island, roughly nine acres, off the Beaufort Sea, 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. It will sit in about 19 feet of sheltered waters and connect to land using a new subsea pipeline.
Hilcorp predicts that the offshore Alaska oil and gas development site will recover between 60 and 100 million barrels of oil. Peak production will be anywhere between 60,000 and 70,000 barrels of oil per day, reached within two years of the site’s opening. The field has a life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years, according to most estimates.
Expanding US Fossil Fuel Production
The project was approved, partly, due to the Trump administration’s efforts to significantly expand where the US produces fossil fuels around the world. In 2017, Trump began work on reversing an Obama executive order protecting a swaths of the Arctic from offshore development.
Now, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where this is the only such project approved in the not-too-distant future. All this ties back to a campaign promise made by Trump in 2016, when he stated his vision included one where America was a dominant source of energy worldwide.
Offshore Alaska Oil Development
Hilcorp’s site may be the first of its type, but it’s hardly the only industry activity taking place in this region. Four other artificial islands already exist for the production of oil and gas in Alaska state waters.
The approval was only possible after BOEM evaluated not only the potential environmental impacts of the project but also sought public input. That included not only North Slope communities but tribes as well. Read the BOEM’s environmental impact statement in full.
However, the proposal’s approval doesn’t necessarily mean the project will begin anytime soon. Hilcorp still must complete a significant administrative process, getting all applicable permits from local, state and federal agencies. Afterwards, the further development of the site, along with its production capabilities, will begin as soon as possible.
In the end, it’s safe to say that Hilcorp’s upcoming facility won’t be the last in a formerly protected location. As the Trump administration continues its quest for American energy dominance, this is likely only the trend’s beginning.
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