ConocoPhillips is suing the state of Alaska to prevent it from publicly disclosing well data associated with its massive Willow oil discovery, located at the western end of the state’s North Slope oil fields.
State Law requires that data associated with wells be made public after two years, with some exceptions.
But ConocoPhillips argues that the wells were drilled in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve and are therefore subject to federal privacy laws, not state laws, the 17-page document said. complaintfiled in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that licensed the wells on the reservation, will release the data publicly unless prevented from doing so by court order. indicates the complaint.
In its lawsuit, the oil company claims to have spent tens of millions of dollars to acquire its leases and could lose its competitive edge if the well data is released. The data contains valuable trade secrets and other proprietary information, the company claims.
The Five Wells named in the complaint were drilled in 2018.
The release of the well data was challenged after ConocoPhillips asked the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to extend the state confidentiality period. The agency denied the request.
Federal law would allow information about the well to remain confidential for a longer period, the length of the leases that ConocoPhillips acquired from the federal government, the company claims. The federal government issues 10-year oil and gas leases, which companies can renew.
Willow could produce 160,000 barrels of oil per day and about 600 million barrels over three decades. ConocoPhillips has not made a final decision on whether to build the project, potentially a $6 billion undertaking. The project is undergoing additional environmental review under the Biden administration after a federal judge rejected permits approved by the former Trump administration.
The complaint says that when Congress in 1980 authorized private tenancy on the 23 million-acre reservation, it wanted to keep tenant information confidential.
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Without a judge’s order stopping it, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission “will continue its unlawful attempt to publicly disclose (well data) by seeking to enforce state laws and regulations. ‘in a manner that is expressly warned against and contrary to federal law, and impermissibly interferes with important congressional purposes,’ the lawsuit states.
Rebecca Boys, spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips, said the issue of confidentiality regarding federal leases is a matter of federal law that federal courts must decide.
Dan Seamount, a member of the commission, said the agency could not comment while the matter was in litigation.
ConocoPhillips’ attempt to keep the information confidential echoes successful efforts by different companies decades earlier to protect the confidentiality of data associated with the only well drilled in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, another large tract of federal land on the slope. northern Alaska.
Results from this so-called KIC-1 well, drilled in the mid-1980s, were provided to the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission. But BP Alaska, Chevron and Arctic Slope Regional Corp., an Alaska Native corporation, fought in state court to prevent the information from being made public.
In 1992, companies reached a settlement with the state which authorized limited disclosure to key Alaska Department of Natural Resources officials, primarily experts in the Oil and Gas Division. The finds from this well have been a closely guarded secret ever since, although a New York Times investigation in 2019 suggested that the results were not promising.
The National Oil and Gas Commission is also investigating a recent ConocoPhillips gas leak on the North Slope.