Comment sought on offshore drilling in Beaufort Sea

Deadline is Nov. 18 to submit views on the Hilcorp project to BOEM

Beaufort Sea

A public comment period is open through Nov. 18 on a draft environmental impact statement analyzing the possible environmental impact of offshore oil and gas development and production by Hilcorp Alaska LLC in the Beaufort Sea.

Comments received through this process will be used to inform preparation of the final EIS, said Walter Cruikshank, acting director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The draft EIS and instructions for commenting are online at www.boem.gov/liberty

In its development and production plan, Hilcorp is proposing to build a small artificial gravel island in the 19 foot federal waters of the Beaufort Sea, about 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay. The nine-acre site, to be located about five miles off the coast of Foggy Island Bay, would be similar in nature to the four oil and gas producing artificial islands currently operating in the area’s state waters, including Spy Island, Northstart Island, Endicott Island and Oooguruk Island.

Hilcorp’s plan is to install a “pipe-to-pipe” subsea pipeline to deliver oil to shore. The offshore portion of the pipeline will be laid in a trench, and then buried. It would include automatic leak-detection and temperature-monitoring technology. Onshore the pipeline would connect with the Badami pipeline, which connects with the existing oil and gas infrastructure at Prudhoe Bay.

“The federal submerged lands of the Beaufort Sea are known to have great oil and gas potential,” Cruikshank said. “They also contain sensitive marine and coastal resources that Alaska Native communities depend on for subsistence.”

The agency is looking forward to discussing the draft EIS with coastal communities along the Beaufort Sea and getting meaningful feedback on ways to refine and enhance the EIS, he said.

A development and production plan describes development and production activities proposed by an operator for a lease or group of leases. The description includes the timing of these activities, information on drilling methods, the location of each proposed well or production platform or other structure, and an analysis of both offshore and onshore impacts that may occur as a result of the plan’s implementation.

Hilcorp’s project design includes numerous measures to mitigate potential impacts and the company will also be required to comply with all stipulations associated with their three federal leases, BOEM said. The mitigation measures that the federal government will require from Hilcorp are to be determined during the National Environmental Policy Act review process and Endangered Species Act consultations, resulting biological opinions, Marine Mammal Protection Act authorizations, and other permits that must be obtained from federal regulatory agencies.

The plan commits Hilcorp to several actions to minimize disruption to subsistence activities, including whaling.

Public hearings are scheduled Oct. 2 in Nuiqsut, Oct. 3 in Fairbanks, Oct. 4 in Kaktovik, Oct. 5 in Utquigvik/Barrow, and Oct. 10 in Anchorage.