Company official outlines Exxon plans for Point Thomson gas

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. could pump up to 75,000 barrels a day of high-value natural gas liquids from the long latent Point Thomson field if development plans play out this decade, an Exxon executive said Thursday.

The field could stretch the North Slope's pipeline network east to the border of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That would make Point Thomson a convenient base from which to produce oil or gas from ANWR if Congress ever authorizes drilling there, said Mark Myers, director of the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas.

The Point Thomson field was discovered in 1977 but has lain fallow. It edges the Beaufort Sea about 60 miles east of the heart of the giant Prudhoe Bay field. Exxon is the main owner with partners BP, Chevron Texaco and Phillips.

The state, which would share in Point Thomson's value through royalties and taxes, has long prodded oil companies to develop the field, which holds more natural gas than any other North Slope field except Prudhoe.

Last year, Exxon and the state struck a deal whereby the oil companies would forfeit millions of dollars and rights to thousands of acres unless they drill several exploration and production wells at Point Thomson by 2008.

Speaking to the Resource Development Council, Exxon's Alaska production manager, Jack Williams, outlined plans for the field. He said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun an environmental review that will involve public hearings, but Exxon and its partners will not decide for sure whether to develop the field until late next year or early 2004.

''We are in the very early stages of this project,'' he said.

Developing Point Thomson would be expensive and technically daunting because the field is under extraordinary pressure, making it tough to control the gas when it reaches the surface. The idea is to cycle the gas -- bring it up, capture the ''condensate'' or gas liquids, then pump the ''dry'' gas back down holes for storage underground.

The clear condensates are worth more, barrel for barrel, than crude oil because they require less refining to turn into gasoline or other fuels.

The liquids would be piped through a new 22-mile line west to BP's Badami field, which is connected by a pipeline running another 25 miles west to the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Engineers believe Point Thomson holds 8 trillion cubic feet of gas and 400 million barrels of liquids. Oil companies already have spent about $800 million to seek permits, with another $1 billion needed to finish the project, Williams said.

If the project gets the green light, the first production could come by the end of 2006, he said.

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