Statoil makes plans for drilling in Chukchi Sea

Statoil is inching closer to exploratory drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The only question is: When?

A delegation from the Norwegian oil company held a public meeting in Nome on Monday. Statoil acquired 16 leases in a 2008 sale, and would partner with ConocoPhillips on another 50 leases. The potential drill sites are located about 150 miles northwest of Barrow.

Statoil’s Alaska Exploration Manager Lars Sunde said the company is optimistic about Alaska’s role in its future.

“Alaska is an important emerging area for Statoil. And we are confident from the Norwegian waters and the Norwegian Arctic, we feel that our technology and knowledge level is a very good fit for Alaska,” Sunde said.

Statoil started conducting fieldwork in the Chukchi Sea in 2010, completing 2D and 3D seismic testing of the sea floor. In, 2011 work included sonar to look for shallow gas pockets that could present risks. They also took soil core samples to get a sense of sea floor stability.

Sunde detailed plans for one exploration well, and one or two appraisal wells at depths between 115 to 145 feet. A mobile offshore drilling rig or a jack-up rig would be used, along with a contingent of support ships and oil spill response vessels. The company plans to drill only during the open water season, in ice-free conditions. But Sunde says the schedule is still up in the air.

“What we’re doing is to plan an execution of a drilling program. We don’t know when that might take place. It will not be earlier than 2015, maybe later. But we want to do a very thorough job in understanding all the challenges that are associated with operating in the Arctic and make sure that we do this properly,” Sunde said.

Nome residents who attended the company’s presentation raised questions about the impact Statoil’s ships would have on subsistence. The company’s marine biologist Jurgen Weissenberger said the goal is to have “zero impact” on marine and subsistence species.

Statoil is the national oil company of Norway. Founded in 1972, it was partially privatized in 2001. The Norwegian government retains 67 percent of the company’s shares. It operates in 40 countries and opened an Anchorage office in 2009.

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