Headlamp – Lease sales, big and small.

Third-largest lease sale in two decades. Major oil companies did not bid Wednesday on state leases near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Congress moves to open the refuge’s coastal plain to drilling, but small bidding groups did. And new North Slope prospects generated interest in the annual state lease sale that officials said was one of the biggest of the last two decades. The state received $19.9 million in bids for the North Slope lease sale on Wednesday, making it the third-largest sale in the last two decades, said Chantal Walsh, director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Division. That was a surprise because so much of the land in the region had already been leased, she said. The amount of leased state land on the North Slope is at historically high levels, said Mark Wiggin, deputy commissioner of the state’s Natural Resources department.

Meanwhile, at the BLM… A lease sale for oil and gas drilling rights in Alaska — deemed the largest-ever there by the Trump administration — produced bids for only 7 tracts of land and garnered only $1.16 million in revenue, officials announced late Wednesday. The Bureau of Land Management auctioned 900 tracts of land in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A), totaling 10.3 million acres, for oil and gas drilling rights this week. But only two companies bid, securing drilling rights for 7 tracts of land — or less than 1 percent of that offered — for only $1.16 million, Reuters reports.

Jepsen gives “upbeat and positive” address at Alliance luncheon. ConocoPhillips reports Alaska’s consistent tax structure and business-friendly climate are major factors behind new investments and imminent new production. But the company remains concerned about the state’s budget deficit and uncertainty about taxes. The analysis was presented Wednesday by Vice President of External Affairs and Transportation, Scott Jepsen. He was speaking in Fairbanks at a monthly luncheon hosted by The Alaska Support Industry Alliance. ConocoPhillips expects dozens of new wells in multiple oil fields to come online during the next five years. Projections indicate each field could produce an additional 20,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD).

Murkowski touts energy bill. With details of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan remaining scant, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee suggested Wednesday that a broad energy bill would jump-start it. Lisa Murkowski, Republican-Alaska, said she too had questions about what the $1 trillion infrastructure package touted by Trump would look like, and encouraged the administration to take a look at the Senate’s bipartisan energy bill for a package “that is ready to go and that’s already pre-vetted.” That bill would streamline permitting for natural gas and hydro power projects, facilitate LNG exports, support the modernization of the electric grid, increase buildings’ efficiency and aid development of next generation renewables and advanced nuclear, she said in a keynote address at the GridConnext conference held by Clean Edge and the GridWise Alliance. “So it’s a pretty substantive piece when you think about infrastructure as a whole.”

Expedited permitting, but not at the expense of the environment. The Department of the Interior, the U.S. government’s second largest revenue generator behind the IRS, is trying to be a better business partner to oil companies to curb falling revenues, Vincent DeVito, energy advisory to the Secretary of the Interior, said on Thursday. The department plans to expedite permitting on drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, DeVito said at the S&P Global Platts Energy outlook in New York. Expediting the process would not be at the expense of environmental stewardship, he said.

Japanese utility in the game with AGDC. Legislators got their first chance to publicly question Alaska Gasline Development Corp. officials about a recent agreement with Chinese companies to advance an LNG export project during a Dec. 4 hearing. Meanwhile, AGDC executives in Japan were busy putting the finishing touches on the state-owned corporation’s latest pact to cooperate on developing the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project with potential customers. Shortly after AGDC President Keith Meyer told the House Resources Committee and other legislators in attendance that his team was close to signing a letter of intent with Tokyo Gas Co., the corporation issued a release announcing just that. “Tokyo Gas and Alaska have a special relationship in LNG and I was pleased to host (company President Michiaki) Hirose for meetings and a project update in Juneau this past August to help continue that kinship,” Gov. Bill Walker said in an official statement.

First Reads:

Small bidders snatch up land near ANWR in state oil lease sale
Anchorage Daily News, Alex DeMarban, December 6, 2017

‘Largest ever’ drilling lease sale in Alaska yields few bids
The Hill, Devin Henry, December 7, 2017

ConocoPhillips outlines new projects, concerns about taxes
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Robin Wood, December 6, 2017

Murkowski eyes Senate action on broad energy bill in early 2018
Platts, Jasmin Melvin, December 6, 2017

U.S. Interior Department wants more oil drilling, expedite ANWR permits
Reuters, Reuters Staff, December 7, 2017

AGDC gets interest from Tokyo, questions from lawmakers
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, December 6, 2017