ConocoPhillips continues with Alaska exploration despite legal dispute
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ConocoPhillips continues with Alaska exploration despite legal dispute

By Scarlett Evans 18 Nov 2021 (Last Updated November 18th, 2021 16:40)

ConocoPhillips is set to continue with its Willow project, amidst challenges from environmental and Native groups.

ConocoPhillips continues with Alaska exploration despite legal dispute

American oil major ConocoPhillips has announced it will be continuing with its Willow development project, despite a recent court ruling that overturned approval for the project originally granted under the Trump administration.

The oil drilling project, which is situated on Alaska’s North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve, was contested in August this year, with the US District Court ruling that the original approvals granted were based on flawed environmental analysis.

The lawsuit was filed by Native land and environmental groups, who also successfully sued the Bureau of Land Management at the end of last year for its approval of the project.

ConocoPhillips is Alaska’s largest oil producer, and its Willow project has been pitched as part of a “renaissance” in North Slope oil development, with senior ConocoPhillips vice president Nick Olds calling Willow the company’s “next great Alaska hub” in a June call with investors.

There are also Alaskan officials urging for the project’s completion to help boost the state’s oil industry. In a statement issued at the time of the court’s August ruling, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said: “Make no mistake, today’s ruling from a federal judge trying to shelve a major oil project on American soil does one thing: outsources production to dictatorships and terrorist organisations.

“This is a horrible decision. We are giving America over to our enemies piece by piece. The Willow project would power America with 160,000 barrels a day, provide thousands of family-supporting jobs, and greatly benefit the people of Alaska.”

Speaking at the Resource Development Council for Alaska’s annual conference, Vincent Lelarge, ConocoPhillipps’ manager for North Slope asset development, said that the legal disputes have not set back their timeline. According to Lelarge, the group is continuing with its cost analysis and engineering planning for the project, with a final investment decision anticipated in 2022.

While planning for Willow is still underway, the group is also expected to begin production at GMT-2 field – another North Slope project that could reportedly produce between 35,000 and 40,000 barrels per day.