This story published in the Peninsula Clarion.
At Wednesday’s Joint Chamber Luncheon, Lisa Bruner, vice president of North Slope operations for ConocoPhillips, presented residents with a big picture look at the company’s future in Alaska.
Bruner, who has been with the company for over 29 years, said the company is growing its Alaska portfolio.
“The company itself is very aggressive about the future in Alaska,” Bruner said. “We see a lot of promise in the forthcoming developments in the state.”
Bruner said roughly 20 percent of the company’s production is in the state of Alaska.
Looking back at 2013, Bruner detailed Conoco’s past predictions for development in Alaska, which were in decline.
“Frankly speaking, it wasn’t a very exciting future for the company at that point in time, and there were a number of reasons for that,” Bruner said.
She said state tax regimes and the fiscal climate at the time made an investment in Alaska difficult.
“We were in what is classified as maintenance mode,” Bruner said. “We were still maintaining our infrastructure to produce what we had, but we didn’t see a hugely promising future.”
Fast forward to today, Bruner said Conoco is seeing more potential for development in Alaska.
“The changes we’ve seen since 2013 is nothing short of transformational,” Bruner said.
Bruner said the transformation was a result of a few key events. Passage of SB 21 in 2013 raised the base tax rate, and made it so taxes are lower under high oil prices, but higher under low oil prices. Bruner said the passage attracted many new investments to the state. Another factor in the transformation is the introduction to the new technology and innovation, she said.
“Through that, we’ve undertaken, and built, seven new rigs,” Bruner said. “We have one under construction now. We’re continuing to push the envelope with technology and innovation. We’re continuing to unlock the potential that we see.”
Looking forward, Bruner said the future for Conoco development in Alaska is looking bright, and could potentially provide thousands of jobs for residents.
Majority of the work on the North Slope happens in the winter when the ice roads are able to carry equipment to remote areas, making construction possible. Bruner said the Arctic is never going to be a cheap place to operate, but despite this, she said Conoco brought on more than 1,000 jobs this past winter. These jobs included ongoing construction and exploration of the site.
Bruner said the company drilled six exploration sites this winter and found oil in all of them.
“I could tell you, having worked as long as I have in the industry, that that’s not something that happens often.”
She said the company has drilled several wells at the Willow Discovery site, which she said would become a promising stand-alone development. Now, the company is in the permitting process with Willow Discovery and hopes to begin production by 2025.
“It means thousands of jobs for Alaskans,” Bruner said. “There’s a significant amount of tax and oil revenue that comes with that development.”
Bruner said additional exploration is planned and that the company is primarily looking at the production of horizontal wells. She also said the company is looking at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and is waiting to learn more about upcoming leases.
“We’re beginning to see multiple years worth of drilling over the winter seasons for a significant amount of time to come, with the potential for further developments dependent on our results,” Bruner said.
At the end of the presentation, Bruner shared upcoming challenges Conoco may be facing in the future, which included Alaska Ballot Measure 1, and changes in state tax regime.
“The likelihood of (Alaska Ballot Measure 1) slowing down or completely stopping our ability to continue our development on the North Slope is real,” Bruner said.
She said the company carries more than 150 permits across the North Slope.
“I think it’s an asset for the state and I’m excited to be a part of it,” she said. “And I’m excited for the growth and potential in front of us.”