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Official stops short of endorsing House oil bill

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 3, 2013 at 12:41 am •  Published: April 3, 2013

Representatives of the North Slope's major players — BP, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips — said the plan is a good step forward that would make Alaska more competitive. Damian Bilbao, head of finance for BP Alaska, and Scott Jepsen, vice president of external affairs for ConocoPhillips Alaska, told the House Resources Committee late Tuesday that they believed the bill, if passed, would lead to additional investment and production. Neither quantified that.

Industry representatives also said there was some room for improvement. For example, they told the committee the base rate is too high.

Feige said the committee is scheduled to take up amendments Wednesday, with a goal of advancing the bill to House Finance for additional review. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 14.

Critics, including House Democrats, have questioned what would qualify as new oil under the plan being considered by House Resources. The bill's provisions, for example, would allow for production from lands not in a unit on Jan. 1, 2003, to qualify for the gross value reduction. Balash said that means oil from the currently producing units of Oooguruk and Nakiatchuk would qualify. He said that's seen as something of a matter of fairness.

Balash said those were either sanctioned or in the process of being sanctioned when the state was going through tax changes seven or so years ago. He said companies made their commitments in the "swirl of all this, without the certainty of what the tax rate would be ultimately" and what credits might affect them.

Balash said he expects the number of barrels that qualify for the gross value reduction to be "relatively small" to start with. He said there might be a way for the proposed I-Pad project to qualify for the tax break, as well as ConocoPhillips' project known as CD-5.

"That's where we think these changes are going to result in positive investment decisions on projects like those," he said.

He also said he expected any production from Point Thomson, which the Department of Natural Resources refers to as Alaska's largest undeveloped oil and gas field, would be eligible. The state last year reached a settlement in a long-running dispute over leases to develop the Point Thomson gas fields, clearing the way for additional progress on a major gas pipeline project.