January 28, 2009

Alaska gives Exxon conditional go ahead

Alaska has given Exxon Mobil Corp. conditional permission to drill in a North Slope oil field where the state says the company has dragged its feet.

The state previously locked Exxon out of 31 leases at the Point Thompson oil field after complaints the company was stalling in its efforts to develop the field, the Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

State Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin Wednesday reversed a decision and gave permission for the company to drill at two of the 31 sites, as long as they show progress soon.

In two weeks, the company must have drilling rig contracts signed and show authorization for expenditures for the project.

We're going to hold their feet to the fire. They've still got to perform, said Kurt Gibson, deputy director of the state Division of Oil and Gas.

Point Thompson is estimated to contain trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. The state is anxious to develop the fields, which would create jobs and tax revenues.

We are ... ready to move forward with the Point Thomson Project, Exxon spokesman Bill Brackin said: