Guest cheer-leading by David Middleton
U.S. Senate passes bill that offers a chance to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling
Author: Erica Martinson clock Updated: 3 days ago calendar Published 3 days ago
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate passed a budget resolution Thursday that could provide Alaska’s congressional delegation its best shot in four decades to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
The Senate voted 51-49 to pass the budget resolution, along party lines. Republicans defeated a Democratic amendment to strip the ANWR-allowing provision from the budget resolution, by a vote of 52-48.
It’s not a slam-dunk yet. But Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been granted the opportunity to attach an ANWR drilling provision to a tax reform bill that is considered “must-pass” legislation if Republicans want to retain their control of Congress in 2018. That bill — known as “budget reconciliation” — will only require a simple 51-senator majority vote. House and Senate leaders have said they hope to pass tax legislation before the end of this year, though that may be an overly optimistic timeline.
The budget resolution passed Thursday instructs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to write legislation that raises $1 billion in federal revenue. The House passed a budget resolution earlier this month with a similar provision.
Opponents of Arctic drilling read between the lines and declared this a move that would allow that committee’s chairwoman, Murkowski, to open ANWR to drilling with a simple 51-senator majority vote.
In addition to being a boon to the US Treasury, the development of ANWR, NPR-Alaska and the Beaufort and Chukchi OCS areas are critical to maintaining the operation of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and avoiding the stranding of billions of barrels of crude oil.
The failure to open ANWR-1002 soon will eventually force the premature shutdown and dismantling of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).
A premature end to TAPS would strand about 30 billion barrels of oil and 137 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under Alaska and its OCS (outer continental shelf).
• The Trans Alaska Pipeline System’s (TAPS) minimum flow rate of about 300,000 barrels of oil per day will be reached in 2025, absent new developments or reserves growth beyond the forecasted technically remaining reserves. An Alaska gas pipeline and gas sales from the Point Thomson field and the associated oil and condensate would provide another boost to oil production and extend the life ofTAPS for about one year to 2026. A shut down of TAPS would potentially strand about 1 billion barrels of oil reserves from the fields analyzed.
• For the complete study interval from 2005 to 2050, the forecasts of economically recoverable oil and gas additions, including reserves growth in known fields, is 35 to 36 billion barrels of oil and 137 trillion cubic feet of gas. These optimistic estimates assume continued high oil and gas prices, stable fiscal policies, and all areas open for exploration and development. For this optimistic scenario, the productive life of the Alaska North Slope would be extended well beyond 2050 and could potentially result in the need to refurbish TAPS and add capacity to the gas pipeline.
• The forecasts become increasingly pessimistic if the assumptions are not met as illustrated by the following scenarios.
1. If the ANWR 1002 area is removed from consideration, the estimated economically recoverable oil is 29 to 30 billion barrels of oil and 135 trillion cubic feet of gas.
2. Removal of ANWR 1002 and the Chukchi Sea OCS results in a further reduction to 19 to 20 billion barrels of oil and 85 trillion cubic feet of gas.
3. Removal of ANWR 1002, Chukchi Sea OCS, and the Beaufort Sea OCS results in a reduction to 15 to 16 billion barrels of oil and 65 trillion cubic feet of gas.
4. Scenario 3 and no gas pipeline reduces the estimate to 9 to 10 billion barrels of oil (any gas discovered will likely remain stranded).
Some combination of these hypothetical scenarios is more likely to occur than the optimistic estimates.
Recent large discoveries on the North Slope can only be developed if TAPS remains operational. The opening of ANWR Area 1002, is the fast track to keeping TAPS operational for the next 30-50 years.