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 develop Alaska’s resources. The Willow project on Alaska’s North Slope is one of the company’s most recent exploration successes.

In October 2020, the Department of Interior signed a record of decision on the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Willow Master Development Plan. Read more about the project here. This approval provides the framework to move into the permitting and execution phase of the proposed development, located approximately 30 miles west of the Alpine Field in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

Willow’s proposed stand-alone facilities include a central processing facility, roads, and, initially, three drill sites. The project could produce in excess of 100,000 barrels of oil per day and has the potential to create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions. According to BLM estimates, Willow could generate more than $10 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the State of Alaska, the North Slope Borough, and communities in and around NPR-A.

Prior to developing a new asset like Willow, the company works with regulatory agencies, local communities, and other stakeholders to assess and mitigate potential impacts related to air emissions, subsistence, surface disturbance, water use, wildlife, and people.

The project team has held over 100 meetings with stakeholders across the North Slope. These meetings were a great opportunity to listen, identify, and address concerns. Because of the input from these meetings, extra mitigation measures were taken, including elimination of a proposed temporary offshore gravel island.

– Connor Dunn, asset manager for the proposed Willow development

ConocoPhillips has been operating near and working collaboratively with Nuiqsut residents for over 20 years. Protecting the environment and working closely with local communities, key values that we honor in all our work, was especially important during the Willow planning process. After publication of the Willow Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Bureau of Land Management in 2019, Nuiqsut village whaling captains and other residents expressed subsistence impact concerns regarding the proposed gravel island built specifically for unloading sealift modules. This prompted the project team to reevaluate and change the development plans. Learn more about how we addressed these concerns here.

Some of the other steps we are taking to address subsistence concerns include: the reduction of speed limits and road width in key parts of the field; added subsistence infrastructure to facilitate and improve subsistence access; and the implementation of additional restrictions and mitigations during times of sensitive wildlife activity (such as caribou calving and migration). Because we want to ensure that all concerns are heard and addressed, we voluntarily requested the deferral of two drill sites to allow for more consultation with Nuiqsut stakeholders.

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.