Oil exploration license offered in Bristol Bay

Posted: Thursday, September 04, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas has received two expressions of interest in its oil exploration license offering in the Bristol Bay region.

That is one step in the state's efforts to open onshore swaths of the Bristol Bay region to oil and gas development.

Companies had until Aug. 25 to notify the division of their intent to submit a proposal, and they now have until Sept. 23 to submit the proposal. The state will then go out with a public notice and also solicit for competing proposals, said Jim Hansen, the division's leasing manager.

''By the end of November, we will know for sure how many applicants we have,'' Hansen said.

Because of the competitive nature of the exploration license bid process, the names of companies expressing interest are not being released.

For years, the Bristol Bay region opposed oil development. But with the area's economic mainstay commercial salmon fishing in decline, many in the region have begun to embrace the prospect of oil and gas development.

Estimates of the region's oil and gas potential are old. Onshore, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 1995 that the Alaska Peninsula has a one-in-20 chance of containing 447 million barrels of oil and 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas. If that amount were found, Bristol Bay would be a minor oil province in Alaska compared with the North Slope.

Bids for exploration licenses are work commitments. That means the company does not pay the state up front, but commits to spend a specific amount of money to accomplish exploration work.

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