Elwood Brehmer

Walker touts trade relations with China after gasline talks

Gov. Bill Walker is hopeful the inroads his administration has made with top-level officials in the Chinese government through cooperation on the Alaska LNG Project can be parlayed into partnerships for other industries.

The governor outlined his plans to bolster Alaska-China trade during a Nov. 21 press conference mainly focused on the state’s gasline Nov. 9 agreement with three government-owned Chinese companies.

Murkowski adds Tongass timber, Roadless rule repeal to budget bill

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has made headlines of late for her push to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration but she’s also using her position in the Senate to angle for more resource activity in Southeast Alaska.

Murkowski chairs the Appropriations subcommittee covering the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service, which released its $32.6 billion discretionary 2018 budget for those agencies Nov. 20.

Effort to open ANWR clears one more hurdle

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s legislation to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration cleared another hurdle as expected Nov. 28, but one more big jump remains.

The ANWR provisions passed the Senate Budget Committee as part of the Republicans’ tax overhaul on a 12-11 party-line vote. The next and final stop for the controversial legislation is the Senate floor, where debate is sure to be lengthy and contentious.

The House passed its tax and budget plan Nov. 16.

Report shows Medicaid savings largely from travel cost-shifting

Reforms to Alaska’s Medicaid program are producing savings but state budget officials still expect costs to rise up to $75 million next year.

Provisions in the state Medicaid reform legislation that passed in 2016 with overwhelming bipartisan support saved the state more than $30 million in fiscal year 2017, according to companion reports issued Nov. 15 by the departments of Health and Social Services and Law.

Hilcorp boost Inlet output; Eni preps long well

Most state officials are encouraged about the incremental increase in Alaska’s North Slope oil production because of the impact it could on state finances, but Hilcorp Energy is drilling to produce more from the state’s original oil basin as well.

Hilcorp Alaska Vice President Dave Wilkins said the company drilled nine oil wells into its Cook Inlet fields this year and, as a result, expects to increase its Inlet oil production from about 12,000 barrels per day in January to more than 15,500 barrels per day by year’s end.

More exploration approved at Icy Cape

Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office officials are spending the winter reviewing the results of last year’s drilling campaign and preparing for another at their Icy Cape heavy mineral prospect.

Those results were promising enough for the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Board of Trustees to approve $3 million in October to spend on more exploratory drilling next year, according to Trust Land Office Executive Director Wyn Menefee.

Mixed reaction to AK LNG-China letter

Gov. Bill Walker and his gasline team touted an agreement signed Nov. 8 with three Chinese mega-corporations as the largest step the state has ever taken towards finally putting together a North Slope natural gas project.

After a few days to digest the situation, legislators’ reaction has been more subdued.

ConocoPhillips plans for busy exploration season

It’s going to be a busy winter for ConocoPhillips.

The company that has led exploration into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska west of the existing North Slope oil fields is heading back into the federal lands to drill four more greenfield wells early in 2018, according to spokeswoman Natalie Lowman.

Unpaid tax credits, logistical issues slow Inlet producers

A pair of small companies working in Cook Inlet are trying to overcome funding shortfalls stemming from the State of Alaska not yet making good on promised tax credit refunds.

Furie Operating Alaska and BlueCrest Energy, both Texas-based independents, had to interrupt their 2017 work plans because expected tax credit repayments from the state did not come through.

Brooks Range Petroleum seeks more time as Mustang delayed again

Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. leaders are asking state regulators for another year to bring their small and long-delayed North Slope oil project to fruition.

Bart Armfield, CEO of Anchorage-based Brooks Range wrote in the 2018 plan of development document for the company’s Mustang oil project submitted to the Division of Oil and Gas Oct. 23 that first oil is not expected now until early 2019.

The 2017 plan, submitted to and approved by the division last fall, pegged first production for this December. According to what Armfield wrote, that isn’t close to happening.

Port gets new name, but problems remain

The Port of Anchorage is no more.

No, it did not slough off into Cook Inlet overnight, though parts of it have.

Rather, the Anchorage Assembly changed its name to the Port of Alaska on Oct. 24, a gesture intended to emphasize the importance of the ailing infrastructure to all of Alaska, not just its largest city.

Regardless of the name, the price tag to keep it in service for the next 75 years remains at upwards of $700 million.

Steve Ribuffo

Walker, AGDC sign gasline agreement with 3 China cos.

Gov. Bill Walker’s administration announced a big step forward for the $40 billion Alaska LNG Project late Wednesday in the form of a multi-level agreement with three Chinese mega-corporations to advance the project.

President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping attended the signing of the joint development agreement in Beijing, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Walker said there is still work to be done before a final investment decision is reached but the agreement has the five key players to make the trans-Alaska gasline project go.

House sends crime bill back to Senate; budget hearings commence

The House made headway Nov. 7 on both of the agenda items on Gov. Bill Walker’s special session call

However, there still does not appear to be any interest from the Republican-led Senate Majority in approving the governor’s proposed employment tax, or any tax for that matter.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 7 the House passed Senate Bill 54 by a 32-8 vote with a bipartisan group of Fairbanks and Matanuska-Susitna area representatives voting against it after long days of floor sessions throughout the weekend.

Optimism abounds in advance of annual RDC gathering

There is plenty for the players of Alaska’s extraction industries to be positive about and that should translate into a cheery Resource Development Council for Alaska conference.

The annual gathering for some of the state’s largest industries will be held Nov. 15-16 as it usually is at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Downtown Anchorage.

RDC for Alaska Executive Director Marleanna Hall said some of the good vibes are being sent all the way from Washington, D.C.

Search for new play leads Oil Search to Slope

The search for a new oil play took Keiran Wulff almost as far from his home as it could before he finally found what he was seeking.

The president of Sydney-based Oil Search Ltd. — a soon-to-be tenant on the North Slope — and Armstrong Energy CEO Bill Armstrong sat down with the Journal Nov. 6 in Downtown Anchorage to discuss their $850 million deal announced the week before.

Climate change vs. responsible development at Senate ANWR hearing

The U.S. Senate committee hearing held Thursday on the merits of opening part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil industry mostly featured rehashed arguments on both sides of the debate but also highlighted the some of the dichotomies and contradictions underlying the debate.

Alaska Air nets $266M while muddling through merger

Alaska Air Group Inc. leaders reported a third quarter net income of $266 million and record revenues in the third quarter during an Oct. 25 investor call despite continued operational challenges at their airlines.

Seattle-based Alaska Air Group’s airlines, Alaska, Virgin America and regional carrier Horizon Air, generated a record $2.12 billion in operating revenue during the quarter and netted pretax profits of $446 million for a pretax margin of 21 percent.

Armstrong sells major North Slope prospect

Despite holding one of the largest North Slope oil prospects, Armstrong Energy is cashing out some of its stake in Alaska.

Oil Search, a publicly traded company with operations in Papua New Guinea, announced Oct. 31 (Nov. 1 local date) that it has reached a $400 million deal with Armstrong Energy and GMT Exploration Co., a silent partner, to buy into the Pikka Unit and other Slope prospects.

AIDEA approves sale of LNG plant to Fairbanks gas utility

A comprehensive plan to get more natural gas to the Interior is halfway home.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board of directors unanimously approved a $331.2 million financing plan authority leaders hope will enable the Interior Gas Utility to bring the Interior Energy Project to fruition.

Included in the deal is the sale of Fairbanks Natural Gas and its Titan LNG plant on Point MacKenzie in Southcentral for $59.5 million, as well as passing of the gas supply contract AIDEA secured in September with Cook Inlet producer Hilcorp Energy.

ConocoPhillips reports quarterly profit

ConocoPhillips is back in the black after posting a $420 million profit in the third quarter.

The positive results are just the second profitable quarter for the company since the start of 2016. ConocoPhillips netted $586 million in the first quarter of this year but reported a $3.4 billion loss in in the second quarter. For the year, the company is still $2.4 billion in the red.

ConocoPhillips reported just more than a $1 billion profit in the third quarter of 2016.

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