Statoil follows Shell, will vacate Alaska Chukchi Sea leases

Statoil ASA announced that it will vacate leases it holds in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska and close its office in Anchorage because they are no longer competitive. Its Nov. 17 action came after Shell Offshore Co. made a similar move with its Alaska federal offshore leases for the same reason (OGJ Online, Sept. 28, 2015).

“Since 2008, we have worked to progress our options in Alaska,” said Tim Dodson, Statoil executive vice-president for exploration. “Solid work has been carried out, but given the current outlook we could not support continued efforts to mature these opportunities.”

The decision means the company will leave 16 federal Chukchi Sea leases it operates, and its stakes in 50 tracts operated by ConocoPhillips Co. The leases were awarded in the then-US Minerals Management Service’s 2008 lease sale in Alaska and expire in 2020.

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement denied Shell and Statoil’s request for suspensions on Oct. 16, which would have allowed them to retain leases in the Beaufort as well as Chukchi Seas beyond their original 10-terms (OGJ Online, Oct. 16, 2015). The Beaufort Sea leases are due to expire in 2017.

Dodson said that Statoil’s studies, research, and activities in Alaska have given the company significant skills and expertise that it can leverage in other northern environment opportunities in the future. “Our understanding of the challenges and opportunities has increased considerably over the last years,” he indicated.

US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) expressed concern that a second company with federal leases off Alaska’s coast decided to walk away in as many months.

“Low oil prices may have contributed to Statoil’s decision, but the real project killer was this administration’s refusal to grant lease extensions; its imposition of a complicated, drawn-out, and ever-changing regulatory process; and its cancellation of future lease sales that have stifled energy production in Alaska,” she said on Nov. 17. “These actions threaten to undermine Alaska’s economy, our security, and our environment.”

Contact Nick Snow at

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