ExxonMobil wrestles over Point Thomson

ExxonMobil wants to start drilling wells in Alaska’s North Slope, but the oil giant said the state is denying a drilling permit for the 106,201-acre field known as Point Thomson and is therefore taking its case to Alaska’s Superior Court.

The natural gas reserves are believed to represent nearly one-fourth of the North Slope’s 35 trillion cubic feet of proved reserves. This has led some state lawmakers to view the field’s development as vital to a successful natural gas pipeline project. They want to see a resolution soon, said an Associated Press report. Since 2005, the state has tried to take the leases and find new leaseholders; field operator ExxonMobil, and its partners who include BP and Chevron want to move forward. ExxonMobil said it is “ready, willing and able,” to begin a $1.3 billion project that would start producing 10,000 barrels a day of condensate, which is considered a light form of oil. The current issue is whether ExxonMobil truly has the right to pursue legal action for the permit at this point. The state says it is a premature move because Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin has not reached a final decision on the company’s permit request. ExxonMobil says Irwin’s decision has already been made when he wrote a letter in August, saying: “You do not have and will not be granted permission to enter the subsurface of Alaska lands without a valid oil and gas lease.” A ruling by Judge Patrick McKay could come within a week.

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