FAIRBANKS, Alaska — State lawmakers were heading north Tuesday to take a firsthand look at the Point Thomson petroleum field.
Exxon Mobil Corp. has been working to develop the North Slope field since settling a long-running lease dispute with the state in 2012. Terms of that agreement, aimed at getting development underway, include penalties aimed at forcing the company to move toward a major gas sale and increased oil production, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Critics of the settlement said it would leave too much oil untapped.
Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, said he believes Exxon Mobil is serious about moving ahead with the development and that Point Thompson could enhance chances for a major natural-gas pipeline. The field is seen as critical to the fortunes of a major gas line, which Exxon Mobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and TransCanada Corp. are pursuing.
During the trip, Bishop said he would look for signs of the company's continued commitment to Alaska.
The amount of money Exxon Mobil has invested so far "is not chump change," he said. "I don't know what the total spend is, but it's north of 4 billion. I'm not inside the Exxon Mobil boardroom, but I don't think they're going to be spending that kind of money without the bigger prize of the pipeline."
Bishop said he is pleased to see Exxon Mobil following through on promises to hire Alaskans.
Exxon Mobil earlier this year announced it had hired 1,200 Alaskans during the 2013 winter work session and sent work to in-state contractors across Alaska.
Larry Persily, the federal coordinator for Alaska gas pipeline projects, said a gauge of the companies' intention of following through on a pipeline might not be on the North Slope but in a mailbox.
"The next benchmarks to look for are going to be the application for an export license," he said. "Even though it's a 50 buck fee, it's a visible symbol to the market that you're doing something. There's also 2014 fieldwork to be done."