Feds move forward with review of Hilcorp’s Arctic drilling plans

Hilcorp’s design plans for the gravel island it aims to build in federal waters in the Beaufort Sea, as submitted to federal regulators in 2015. (Image courtesy BOEM)

The federal government is moving forward with its review of Hilcorp’s proposal to drill offshore for oil in the Arctic.

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Called the Liberty Project, it would be the first oil production platform in federal Arctic waters. Hilcorp wants to build an artificial gravel island in the Beaufort Sea, five miles off the coast in shallow waters near Prudhoe Bay. Oil would be carried to shore via a pipeline under the sea floor.

Several similar developments are already operating in state waters.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released a draft of the environmental analysis for the project this week. The agency is now taking public comments on the proposal through mid-November.

Several environmental groups have already spoken out against the project, citing a months-long gas leak from one of Hilcorp’s fuel lines in Cook Inlet this spring.

In a news release, BOEM said Hilcorp “included numerous measures to mitigate potential impacts” in its project design.

Elizabeth Harball is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk, covering Alaska’s oil and gas industry and environmental policy. She is a contributor to the Energy Desk’s Midnight Oil podcast series. Before moving to Alaska in 2016, Harball worked at E&E News in Washington, D.C., where she covered federal and state climate change policy. Originally from Kalispell, Montana, Harball is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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