Willow Discovery

Promoting Economic Growth and Energy Security

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ConocoPhillips has been a significant player in Alaska for more than 50 years. As the state’s largest oil producer, we’ve demonstrated an ongoing commitment to responsibly developing Alaska’s resources. The Willow project, on Alaska’s North Slope, is one of the company’s most recent exploration successes. The proposed Willow development is approximately 30 miles west of the Alpine Field in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

In May 2018, as part of the permitting process for Willow, ConocoPhillips requested that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) perform an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Willow EIS is being conducted under the NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan published in 2013, which was widely supported by environmental groups.

Of the various development alternatives discussed in the EIS, the company’s proposed project, Alternative B, is also BLM’s preferred alternative. The project provides for up to five drill sites, a central processing facility, an operations center, gravel roads, ice roads, ice pads, one airstrip and pipelines. The road connection back to the Alpine infrastructure and road connections to all the drill sites are essential for safe and environmentally sound operations. Alternative B would also reduce environmental impacts compared to other options by requiring less gravel fill, fresh water and aircraft flights, while improving year-round access for local residents.

Read the complete Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) here.

After publication of the Willow Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2019, Nuiqsut village whaling captains and other residents expressed subsistence impact concerns regarding the proposed gravel island built specifically for unloading sealift modules.

Throughout 2019, we held over 60 meetings with stakeholders across the North Slope. These meetings were a great opportunity to listen, identify and address concerns, many of which revolved around our plan to construct a temporary offshore gravel island.

– Connor Dunn, asset manager for the proposed Willow development

This prompted us to re-evaluate the project development plans. Learn more about how we listened and addressed concerns from residents about the proposed gravel island here.

The new option proposes offloading construction modules at the existing Oliktok Dock with onshore transportation via existing roads and a heavy haul ice road, instead of constructing the island. As a result of this change, a supplement to the Willow DEIS was needed. Option 3, the Colville River Crossing, is now ConocoPhillips’ preferred option because it addresses concerns expressed by the local communities.

In addition, Option 3 decreases the amount of gravel needed for the project which reduces the size of the mine and amount of gravel mining activity. This has the advantage of preserving gravel, a limited resource, for future community or industry use.

Read more about the supplement to the Willow DEIS here.

Economic Impact

Willow will be the first development in the Bear Tooth Unit, located in the northeast portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). ConocoPhillips plans to invest $4-6 billion in constructing and developing Willow.

Construction activities could span more than seven years, and at the peak, these activities could employ as many as 2,000 people. Long-term, the project will create hundreds of permanent jobs. According to BLM estimates, Willow could generate more than $10 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the State of Alaska and the North Slope Borough.

Environmental Stewardship

ConocoPhillips has consistently proven that we can operate on Alaska’s North Slope safely, responsibly and sustainably. The project is designed to have minimal impacts. Data collected since ConocoPhillips first started development in the Colville River Delta with the Alpine field shows that subsistence lifestyle is thriving, and subsistence harvests are equal to or greater than before Alpine. In addition, air quality of the North Slope is consistently better than national ambient air quality standards and wildlife populations are healthy.

We reliably meet all local and federal environmental mandates, including rigorous adherence to approximately 270 mitigation and best practices currently in place for the NPR-A. We work in close collaboration with regulatory agencies and other interested stakeholders to design and build infrastructure that minimizes disturbance to wetlands and the unique benefits they provide. In addition, Willow will be one of the first North Slope projects designed and built in compliance with new EPA rules that reduce volatile organic compounds and methane emissions.

ConocoPhillips also has a long history of working with the village of Nuiqsut and the other North Slope villages. We work diligently to build inclusive, honest and respectful relationships with our North Slope stakeholders and engage with them openly and transparently in order to promote understanding of our activities, learn more about local concerns and collaboratively seek solutions. We believe the relationships we have developed with North Slope residents are mutually beneficial and provide the basis for understanding and working together.

Energy Security

In addition to stimulating economic growth, Willow will also promote U.S. energy security by increasing domestic oil supply. If approved, the Willow project could produce in excess of 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Additional oil production will also help keep a key piece of U.S. infrastructure, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), economically viable. The estimated production rate from Willow would be about a 20% increase over current TAPS throughput.