End of oil? Willow to be approved by Biden, with a hitch: Will it be the last project allowed on North Slope?

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Fox News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post are all in agreement on Sunday — the Biden Administration will approve the ConocoPhillips Willow project on Monday, but there is a trick: It could be the last oil development allowed in Alaska’s Arctic.

The new groups cite sources in the Biden Administration who say the president will take away the rest of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which has 13 million acres that was set aside by the federal government for oil and gas development.

News of the decision was leaked to Bloomberg on Friday, setting off a wave of speculation, environmentalist protest, and cautious optimism.

But on Friday, Biden’s Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre apparently lied to the press, when she responded to a question about Willow and said the decision had not yet been made. “Anyone who says there has been a final decision is wrong,” she said.

Willow, which could during its peak production provide 180,000 barrels per day to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, will be the last in the Arctic, according to these sources, as the Administration puts up a “firewall” to block future leases on the North Slope and other rules for the NPR-A, where Willow is located.

Soft announcements like this one, which come with a Friday evening news leak, an official denial, and then further corroboration over the weekend with more detail, are standard practice for softening a decision that has consequences either way.

But while environmentalists are sure to be upset with the decision — and they are — Alaska is likely to take a hard economic hit from the Biden Administration as he says “no more oil” to the richest oil fields in America.

“It’s insulting that Biden thinks this will change our minds about the Willow project,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting one area of the Arctic so you can destroy another doesn’t make sense, and it won’t help the people and wildlife who will be upended by the Willow project. We need to protect the entire Arctic and stop building massive oil and gas developments that will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions for years to come.”

On Friday, TikToks posts with #StopWillow hashtags rose to the the Chinese-owned social media site’s top 10 trending topics, as environmentalists made one last push.

In Alaska, the news was met with caution.

“If this is true, it’s short-term gain for longterm pain for Alaska,” said Rick Whitbeck, Alaska director for Power the Future, a pro-energy group.

38 COMMENTS

  1. That what happens when the American people allow dishonest and cheating elections to stand. The people are to blame not the politicians.

    • Have Americans allowed it to stand? People have been fighting for years to fix the disastrous 2020 election. It’s the politicians that keep failing us. Politicians, judges, attorney generals. Look at all the “cancelled” people still trying to fix things.

    • You’re delusional. Just because the person you wanted elected lost, doesn’t mean the elections are corrupt, it means they lost! Get over it.

      • There is not one policy the Biden administration has put into place that has had a positive result for the taxpayer. Not one. Every move made by this administration will be negatively impacting the taxpayers for 10 years. Those are the facts.

        • Not all of the left. A very miniscule percentage of the left and those employed by the left to carry it out. I’m pretty sure the cars that got burned that belong to the left wasn’t approved, nor the businesses. I remember part of the left during Obama burning Ferguson Missouri. Obama sat there quiet like Nero did has Rome burned and said nothing. He also sat there quiet well people called 911 in Texas and other locations in the south and then ambushed police when they showed up.

    • Smokey; You are correct. Seems most of the posters are upset about presidents willow decision.

  2. The Executive does not have the authority to rescind a law passed two years ago opening ANWR. EO’s do not trump laws.

    Let’s Go Brandon!!!

  3. And the other shoe drops.

    The only saving grace is the next GOP president will toss this into the trash.

  4. Gosh, Alaska AFL-CIO, perhaps you should reconsider your blanket support for Democrats. It looks to me like Brandon could care less about what happens to you. Happy now?

    • I used to argue at union meetings about the leadership constantly pushing to elect the job killing, tax raising, leftists, democrats. I have never been employed by a democrat as, evidently, they rarely run a business; rather they run owners out of business…

  5. Perhaps it will be the last oil development in all of America. Americans will re-elect Biden in 24 because the country has simply become that naive.

  6. The states that don’t want Alaska to be able to develop its resources as they have been able to do should not get any fossil fuels.

  7. As I said previously.

    Ultimately, if Willow is approved, it is about getting Democrats elected or re-elected. If Willow is denied then it is obvious that the anti-American, anti-clean development, anti-progress, anti-capitalist wing of the Democrat party is in charge and voters will need to remove them from any and every part of the decision making process in this country. If Biden approves Willow he does so knowing that the agenda of the left leads to nothing but ruin.

    The pandering to the environmental whackos by attempting to lock up an area larger than the state of Maryland that already has congressional approval shows that Biden, or more likely his handlers, know that they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. This attempt at locking up almost 16 million acres isn’t even good enough for those who hate this country, who hate progress, who hate clean development, and who hate capitalism…they want the wholesale destruction of our country and our way of life and they are your neighbors.

    • The lock up of that acreage is pandering to enviros. That’s it. In practice, it’s a completely meaningless move because there really isn’t anything economically-viable to develop in those leases anyway. No one in industry is losing a night of sleep over that. We’re all just relieved an actual, commercial, years-in-the-making project is being allowed to progress.

      • GGR, how do you, or anyone else, what is and is not economical to develop in the rest of the National Petroleum Reserve? My understanding is that most of it has never been drilled or meaningfully explored.

        • Because I’m a Petroleum (specifically Reservoir) Engineer in the Alaska O&G industry with a fairly good understanding of how exploration and project evaluation goes. Enough seismic data and surface maps of geologic structures exist across the Slope to indicate whether a commercial accumulation is likely in NPRA; it is not thus one has not been developed. It’s similar to why we don’t need to drill a well in your or my backyard to know there isn’t any oil and gas there…we have sufficient data and technical expertise built through 60+ years of industry in the state to know where accumulations are likely and where they are not. It sounds like a cop-out, but if something substantial were there, we’d know about it by now.

          The geologic data we have combined with current economic thresholds (set by companies needing to make money, gasp!), do not support further exploration and development work in NPRA. Economic conditions evolve and so does the definition of what an “economic” accumulation is, but my (pretty close) pulse on the industry does not suggest anything significant coming out of that area in the near future, particularly since building the surface infrastructure, processing facilities, and pipelines to move the product to market would be insanely costly and a complete regulatory disaster. A company would need very deep pockets and the prospect of a very robust financial reward to dare wade into that mess.

          Furthermore, we also know that the discovery of another giant field – like Prudhoe – in the area is statistically unlikely (or the data would have shown it to at least a few people in the 2-3 generations of brilliant technical minds avidly searching for it). In this day and age, anything less than the opportunity to find another giant field in an area so remote will fail to draw development dollars. Willow is relatively close to existing infrastructure so less costly and less risky to chase; it’s also not that big on global O&G field size standards. (As Alaskans we like to think our stuff is huge and special, but honestly, it’s a drop in the bucket. A handful of Gulf of Mexico wells make Prudhoe’s entire daily production in a couple of hours.)

          It takes many, many conditions – perfect geology, perfect economics, perfect risk assessment, perfect regulations – to reach the stage of drilling even an exploration well. That isn’t done on a whim or blindly or just to see what you find and hope you get lucky (although there is always a lot of hoping in this industry that you have done the work to set the stage for luck!). What you’re calling “meaningful exploration” requires first passing various on-paper geologic, petrophysical/reservoir, regulatory, risk, and economic stage gates that just haven’t been scaled – and likely won’t be anytime soon, in my view – as it concerns additional development across NPRA.

          Give it 15-20 years, though, when the laws of thermodynamics still haven’t changed and the superior efficiency of hydrocarbons to any other energy source (except nuclear) is finally accepted and even better exploration and drilling technology exists and energy prices are probably super duper high (due to global shortage) and then conditions might just be right to give even tiny accumulations at NPRA a launchpad.

  8. Obviously not enough people because nothing has change. What has Lisa Lisa and Dan done? Nothing. Now you guys elected a Dem to the House because the people of Alaska voted to change to 1 person 3 votes system. That has to be the most ridiculous move to do.

    • There is to much money in the economy as nobody cares as long as they get free money. When there is not enough money for food ,gas, and fun people are too blind to see the big picture. The working middle class has to much at state unless there is a massive effort made to do something. We need a real leader who will stand up and lead the way. Remember it’s the rich elite political class who is in control, and the voter or normal. American does not care. So being a sheep is OK with the majority of America they don’t realize the amount of rights they’ve lost and are losing.

  9. The head of the Biden Crime Family is not at all concerned that Alaska was provided 105 million acres at statehood so we could support a very large state with a small population. Much of that acreage has oil and gas- so Alaska can pay the bills.

    But Biden doesn’t care. He’s spent 40 percent of his presidency on Vacation in Delaware. And he’s doing every possible thing he can to destroy this country. He’s corrupt. His POS son is corrupt. And his brother Jim is corrupt. Biden should be in prison.

    Worst president ever.

    • Re: Worst president ever.

      Yep, carter can die with a smile on his face as brandon kept him from dying at the bottom of the list….

  10. Yep, last oil drilling project on the Slope until Trump is back in the White House in 2024. Then, it will become a driller’s paradise…….again.

    • Many, many wells are being drilled on the Slope as we speak and lots of money is being made…due to high energy prices…due to insane domestic energy policy. (I work for the company doing most of that drilling.)

    • That probably won’t happen. Trump is about to be indicted and while he’s innocent until proven guilty, unless he’s willing to tell the world where the aliens are, he’s probably not going to prison but he’s probably not going to win either. I don’t even see him winning the nomination.

      • Greg,
        They’ve been trying to pin something, anything, on Trump since 2015……B4 he won the 2016 primary. AG’s, prosecutors, DA’s, Congress, Democratic National Party. So far they scored 0. Oh, they did manage to beat him with election fraud in 2020. He’s coming back. Take it to the bank.
        Hope you are enjoying yourself in Florida.

        • I am enjoying myself in Florida thank you. I do miss Alaska though. Maybe I’ll make a third appearance up there someday. Trump is beginning his scramble move. Everything that’s been done up until now has just been a series of Acts in a play. We’re coming to the conclusion just now. I voted for him, but now I wish he would just shut up and go away quietly. He’s not doing himself for the party any favors. His bitterness will be his downfall

  11. Biden will go down in history as one of the worst presidents.
    Mary Peltola is proving more and more worthless by the moment. She’s spending all her time talking like a moderate when in fact her actions and votes represent extreme liberalism.
    I can’t figure out if she’s just dumber than a dog or a complete and worthless fraud.
    I voted for her. Today, I would prefer a dumb dog.

  12. TikTok is herding its zombies to fight against Willow. Who owns TikTok? China. Who benefits? China.

    Considering the moron in power right now, it looks like we’ll have to wait two more years before the government moves against TikTok.

  13. If we don’t need oil, we don’t need an oil reserve land classification. That huge expanse can be recreated into the National Caribou Primitive Weapons Hunting Preserve. Nonresidents must be guided by an Inuit hunting guide. Land access fees (in addition to the guiding, outfitting, and electric-vehicle-only transport fees) are split between the feds (80%), ASRC (15%), and state (5%). All meat not transported out of state must be surrendered in edible condition to local charities.

  14. As a Petroleum Engineer in Alaska’s O&G industry, that this decision wasn’t screwed up is great. (How tremendously sad and frustrating and absurd it is that “not screwing up” is our standard these days. Sigh.) To ease some frantic non-industry minds out there, I’m also not at all worried about the associated moratorium/stoppage to future Slope leases. That’s just the Dems throwing a worthless bone to placate the emotions of no-nothing enviros.

    The reality is, there is not an abundance of new Arctic projects on the cusp of happening that now cannot happen as a result of this decision. The most geologically- and economically-viable prospects are already online or actively moving in that direction (Willow from CoP and Pikka from Santos are the two that come to mind). This ruling could complicate Santos’ development plans, but they’re still years (1-2 elections) away from first oil, so whatever.

    Overall, among both politicians and the masses, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the prolonged timelines behind all O&G developments; in most cases you’re looking at 10+ years from first idea to first barrel. Whatever is “shut down” now, can still be studied and on-paper developed (which is 70-80% of the development process anyway). From what I know/hear (admittedly I am not super deep in the Alaska Exploration world), very few lease areas are even in the study phase of the very long process. If I remember correctly, there was hardly ANY bidding in the most recent round of Arctic lease sales; that is not because of fear of government policy but rather because the resources just aren’t there in economic quantities. (As an aside, I’ve never once heard fear of government policy given as a reason an O&G company doesn’t pursue commercially-viable exploration opportunities.)

    This decision is therefore nothing lost and nothing gained. Everyone should just keep calm and, obviously, vote these idiots out (starting with Mary Peloton).

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