The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has conditionally approved a Beaufort Sea exploration plan (EP) it received from the Italian oil major Eni.
BOEM said on Wednesday that the approval came after a comprehensive review and consideration of comments received from the public, stakeholders, and Federal and state partner agencies and tribes.
Eni plans to drill four exploration wells into the federal submerged lands of the Beaufort Sea from its Spy Island drillsite, a pre-existing facility located in Alaska state waters. Drilling will be conducted during the winter months only and should begin in December 2017.
The drilling of Eni’s Nikaitchuq North Project will consist two mainbores and two sidetracks from the man-made island using the Doyon Rig 15. The rig is a mobile oil and gas well drilling facility capable of drilling in extreme arctic conditions. The rig design consists of fully integrated modules capable of drilling on 8-foot well spacing.
The EP evaluation included a site-specific environmental assessment (EA) of the proposed exploration activities and found no significant impact (FONSI).
BOEM’s acting director, Walter Cruickshank, said: “Eni brought to us a solid, well-considered plan. We know there are vast oil and gas resources under the Beaufort Sea, and we look forward to working with Eni in their efforts to tap into this energy potential.”
The evaluation also included two separate public comment periods: one to give the public the opportunity to provide information on issues that should be examined in the EA and one to comment on the EP itself.
Among the conditions of approval is the requirement that Eni must also procure all appropriate permits from other state and federal agencies, including permits to drill from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Spy Island is one of four o&g-producing artificial islands in the waters of the Beaufort Sea. The others are Northstar Island, Endicott Island, and Oooguruk Island. The construction of a fifth island, as proposed in a DPP submitted to BOEM by Hilcorp Alaska LLC, is under review by federal agencies.
As far as Eni’s operations in Alaska go, the company is involved in exploration and development operations in the North Slope region in Alaska, holding interests in 107 leases in Alaska, of which 75 are located in Federal offshore waters of the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea, and 32 are state onshore leases.