FAIRBANKS — A group of Interior lawmakers will join lawmakers from around the state on a trip to Point Thomson, weather permitting, today to get a boots-on-the-ground update on the Point Thomson oil and gas field.
ExxonMobil has been busy at work developing the energy-rich area of the North Slope after it reached a settlement with the state over the development of the field in 2012.
Earlier this year, ExxonMobil reported that it had hired 1,200 Alaskans during the 2013 winter work session and sent work to many in-state contractors throughout the state, including companies in Fairbanks and North Pole.
Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, said he plans to attend the flight and said he’s been pleased to see ExxonMobil stick to the Alaska hire provisions in the contract, which he helped craft as the former Commissioner of Labor.
“For me, it’s kind of very rewarding to hear those kinds of numbers because as someone who was in the administration and who worked on a piece of it, I’m just tickled pink that Exxon is living up to the agreement and spending the money on the state,” he said.
ExxonMobil and the state had sparred for years over the lack of development of the field that by most estimates contains a huge amount of untapped oil and gas. The state and ExxonMobil settled in 2012, agreeing to a number of terms to get development started on the project. Those include penalties that are aimed at forcing the oil company to move toward a major gas sale and increased oil production. Unlocking Point Thomson is also critical for the development of a large-diameter natural gas pipeline.
A number of people were critical of the settlement, saying it would result in a lazy development plan that left too much oil untapped.
Bishop he’s been optimistic about the project and says he believes the company is serious about moving ahead with the project as well as a the prospects of a natural gas pipeline. Today, he said he’ll be looking for signs of continued commitment to Alaska.
“The spend that they’re doing just to develop is not chump change,” he said. “I don’t know what the total spend is but it’s north of four billion. I’m not inside the ExxonMobil boardroom, but I don’t think they’re going to be spending that kind of money without the bigger prize of the pipeline.”
Federal Pipeline Coordinator Larry Persily was in Fairbanks on Monday, speaking with local groups about Alaska’s natural gas prospects as well as how it will fit into the world markets. He also planned on attending the visit and said that a good judge of the oil producers’ intention of producing a pipeline might not be on the North Slope, but in a federal mailbox.
“The next benchmarks to look for are going to be the application for an export license,” he said. “Even though it’s a 50 buck fee, it’s a visible symbol to the market that you’re doing something. There’s also 2014 field work to be done.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.