The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that Willow will create only a fraction of 1% of all U.S. emissions.
The vast majority of those – approximately 0.1% of 2019 U.S. annual emissions, or 0.3% of anticipated 2030 U.S. annual emissionsi – will come from consumer end-use products such as gasoline for cars, diesel for tractors and fuel oil for home heating. These emissions, known as “Scope 3 emissions,” are not from sources owned or controlled by ConocoPhillips. In other words, even if Willow weren’t developed, these emissions would still occur because fuel is still needed in the United States – but in that case the economic benefits of producing the needed energy would accrue elsewhere.
Responsible North Slope development – including Willow infrastructure – uses what are known as passive thermosyphons, which allow ground heat to transfer out of the permafrost. These devices are not “chillers” as some have falsely claimed. They are standard Arctic engineering devices that have been in use since the 1960s, and are commonly used when constructing buildings, railroads, bridges and subsistence ice cellars. They require no external power supply.
The North Slope and Alaska Native communities closest to Willow have voiced strong support for the project. In order to gather comments on the project from the people closest to Willow’s proposed site, ConocoPhillips participated in multiple years of engagement including over 150 in-person meetings with local residents and stakeholders, and the BLM held 25 public hearings in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nuiqsut, Utqiagvik, Atqasuk and Anaktuvuk Pass. Feedback from these meetings shaped the design of the project.
Willow is located on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), land which was set aside 100 years ago specifically for petroleum development. Roughly the size of Indiana, the NPR-A covers approximately 23 million acres. The Willow gravel footprint is 385 acres, which is less than 0.002% of the total NPR-A. In the area where development will occur, activities are comprehensively regulated to protect air, water, wildlife and other valuable public resources.
ConocoPhillips maintains strict operational requirements for wildlife protection, building on a four-decade track record of continuous engineering improvements to avoid and minimize wildlife impacts in our operating fields on the North Slope. Science-based engineering design features at Willow include seven-foot-high pipelines as well as road and pipeline separation to allow for continued caribou movement and herd distribution. Additionally, to minimize the risk of hazards to birds, there are no power lines at Willow.
All permanent Willow infrastructure is outside of designated polar bear critical habitat. Polar bears are not expected in the Willow area, which is inland from the coast. Willow was also designed to have minimal impacts on fish and to subsistence fishers. Facilities are designed to be greater than 500 feet from fish-bearing water.
Alaska’s entire U.S. Congressional delegation – Democrats and Republicans – supports Willow because of the benefits it will provide to the state of Alaska and Alaska Native communities, while also enhancing U.S. energy security.
The Alaska state legislature unanimously adopted a resolution supporting Willow, urging President Biden and the Department of Interior to approve the project.
Willow could generate between $8 billion and $17 billion in new revenue for the North Slope Borough and local communities, as well as the state of Alaska and the federal government, according to U.S. BLM estimates. The project is also projected to create 2,500 construction jobs and 300 long-term jobs.
The BLM found that if Willow doesn’t proceed, 52% of the replacement energy will be oil imported from foreign sources. Most, if not all, of the foreign sources would have lower environmental and GHG standards – and must be transported to the U.S., an additional emissions impact.
This information is detailed in the BLM market substitution analysis. Simply put, Willow’s projected production will reduce American reliance on foreign supply and support U.S. energy security by producing reliable, low emissions-intensity oil from an existing petroleum reserve.
Credible net-zero projections show significant demand for oil for decades to come. The International Energy Agency’s “Net Zero by 2050” pathway shows global oil demand at 24 million barrels per day in 2050iii – considerably less than today but also approximately twice what is currently produced by the U.S. During the transition, energy should come from the best possible projects and sources.