On the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised energy dominance for the United States. Less than two years after he took office, the country is starting to see the results.
Hilcorp Alaska LLC was given conditional approval for its Liberty Project oil and gas development plan by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Oct. 24. If the company develops the project, it will be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska.
“American energy dominance is good for the economy, the environment, and our national security,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a press release. “Responsibly developing our resources, in Alaska especially, will allow us to use our energy diplomatically to aid our allies and check our adversaries. That makes America stronger and more influential around the globe.”
The proposal would have Hilcorp build a nine-acre gravel island roughly five miles from shore in the Beaufort Sea, in 19 feet of water. Construction is estimated to take four winter months, with an additional six months to reinforce the site.
Once completed, oil will be drawn 24/7 until all the reserves are above ground. There are an estimated 150 million to 330 million barrels of oil, and peak production is expected to be 60,000 to 70,000 barrels a day in two years, according to the project website. It’s expected to take 15 to 20 years to fully tap all the oil.
The Interior Department’s evaluation process included an Environmental Impact Statement and multiple public-comment periods.
According to the press release, the approval comes with the following conditions: “restricted drilling into the hydrocarbon-bearing zone, which may occur only during times of solid ice conditions; seasonal restrictions on activities and vessel traffic to reduce potential disturbance to Cross Island subsistence whaling activities; and obtaining all required permits from other state and federal agencies.”
The production facility won’t be the first in the shallow waters of Alaska’s North Slope. In 1987, Endicott became the first, followed by Northstar in 2001, Oooguruk in 2008, and Nikaitchuq in 2011, to drill in waters not managed by the federal government.