Photo: 3D render of Hilcorp's liberty project

U.S. approves first offshore oil platform in Alaska’s federal waters

The U.S. authorities have conditionally approved a project that will see the first oil production facility deployed in federal waters offshore Alaska – the Liberty project.

3D render of Hilcorp’s liberty project – Image source: Hilcorp

The project, operated by Hilcorp, envisions the construction of a nine-acre artificial gravel island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea, about 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay and about five miles off the coast.

The proposed project includes the development of a mine-site to supply gravel for the construction of the LDPI, construction of the island and ice roads, and installation of an undersea pipeline that reaches shore from the Liberty Drilling and Production Island and then connects to the existing above-ground Badami pipeline.

The facility would be similar to the four oil-and-gas-producing artificial islands currently operating in the area’s state waters: Spy Island, Northstar Island, Endicott Island and Oooguruk Island.

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on Thursday issued conditional approval to Hilcorp Alaska LLC for its Liberty Project oil and gas development and production plan.

The interior has said that the Liberty is “a long-awaited development for oil and gas energy production offshore the state of Alaska.”

If developed, the facility would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said“Today we’re announcing approval of the Hilcorp Liberty Project, which if completed, will be the first production facility ever located in federal waters off Alaska,”

The Department of the Interior said the plan was conditionally approved only after incorporating input from the public, and from North Slope communities and tribal organizations.

“As the project moves forward, BOEM will continue to work with Hilcorp to ensure all appropriate safeguards are stringently applied,” the DOI said.

Approval conditions include: restricted drilling into the hydrocarbon-bearing zone, which may occur only during times of solid ice conditions; seasonal restrictions on activities and vessel traffic to reduce potential disturbance to Cross Island subsistence whaling activities; and obtaining all required permits from other state and federal agencies.

“There are already four other gravel-island facilities off the North Slope, and we consider Hilcorp’s plan to represent a relatively conservative, time-tested approach toward offshore oil and gas development,” said Joe Balash, the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “Using input from North Slope communities, tribal organizations, and the public, we have developed a robust set of environmental mitigation measures and safety practices that will be applied to this project.”