September 10, 2009

North Slope drilling continues, affects birds

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ExxonMobil completed drilling its second well on Alaska’s North Slope, reports the Associated Press. Both wells in Point Thomson, a natural gas and condensatefield, are expected to be drilled to their final depths by the end of 2010. The field contains an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is only 25 percent of the North Slope’s resources. ExxonMobil plans to cycle gas by injecting it back into the reservoir, making it the largest gas cycling plant worldwide. It also plans to connect a pipeline to the TransAlaska Pipeline System.

The gas in Point Thomson is crucial for the development of a proposed multi-billion dollar pipelinethrough Canada and into the lower 48 states. ExxonMobil is backing TransCanada Corp. in the creation of the pipeline, and BP and Conoco Phillips are working on their own pipeline project, called Denali, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Development of the North Slope has spawned controversy for years about the cost of the pipeline necessary to get the gas out, as well as environmental impacts. A recent study shows the massive project has had a negative impact on birds who nest in the area, reportsAndrew C. Revkin in the New York Times.

– Emily Linroth

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