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Budgets flat, down {AK tax change needed to make projects competitive}
Petroleum News ^ | Week of November 20, 2011 | Kristen Nelson

Posted on 11/21/2011 7:14:40 AM PST by thackney

Alaska’s current oil tax system is the biggest impediment to getting more oil into the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. And the biggest impediment to oil company investment in the state.

That was the message the Resource Development Council’s annual conference heard Nov. 16 from BP Exploration (Alaska) and ConocoPhillips Alaska, operators of the major fields on Alaska’s North Slope.

Trond-Erik Johansen, president of Conoco Phillips Alaska, and Claire Fitzpatrick, chief financial officer for the Alaska region and senior vice president of BP Exploration (Alaska), both said that if the state wants more oil in the pipeline, it needs to change its tax structure.

And both said that while high oil prices make investment attractive in other oil provinces, they don’t plan additional investments in Alaska in 2012.

Johansen said that while ConocoPhillips’ figures haven’t been finalized for 2012, he expects the company’s capital budget to be flat, about the same it was in 2010 and 2011. He didn’t give figures, but according to the graph he used in his presentation, 2011 spending was up slightly from 2010, both in the $800 million range.

Fitzpatrick said that a year ago BP said it would invest about $800 million in capital in Alaska in 2011, but she expects “our final capital budget will be $700 million” for 2012.

ConocoPhillips’ view

Johansen said throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline has dropped another 7 to 8 percent since November of 2010, while production in the Lower 48 has continued to go up. While Alaska used to be the top producer in the United States, it is now number three after the Gulf of Mexico and Texas — and, he said, it looks as though Alaska will soon drop below California. With production in North Dakota is climbing. Alaska could soon be in fifth or sixth place, he said.

Why isn’t Alaska production increasing?

The “easy oil” has been drilled, Johansen said. The sweet spots were drilled when the fields were developed. In the early days it took a very short time and cost very little money to drill wells. “And when you put them on, they produced a lot of oil and gas,” Johansen said.

There is a lot of light oil left on the North Slope, he said, but “it’s not easily accessible” as it was in the past.

For one thing, while initial water production was low, 3 million barrels a day of water are now being produced.

“We’re more a water production company than an oil production company,” he said, and that water has to be managed: It’s re-injected and used for waterflood.

The other big problem, Johansen said, is the current production tax system, Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share or ACES. ACES takes away the incentive to invest at high oil prices, he said.

Cost of wells up

Johansen illustrated relative drilling costs at fields operated by ConocoPhillips — Kuparuk, Tarn, West Sak and Alpine — because ConocoPhillips has the data for those fields. Using inflation-adjusted figures, he said the early wells in Kuparuk, West Sak and Tarn, cost about $2 million to $4 million a well and took about 10 to 15 days to drill.

“Today it costs four times as much and it takes four times as long,” because wells are no longer vertical or near vertical, but now are horizontal.

“And the bad news is that those wells produce less. So we need more of them.”

ConocoPhillips is still spending a lot of money drilling wells, “but we get less and less oil.”

With the same amount of money and the same number of rigs, there is less production out of each well bore, he said.

“My point is we need to drill more wells. We need to have more people working on more wells. That also means it needs to make commercial sense to us,” Johansen said.

State take an issue

With the progressivity in ACES, the higher the oil price the less incentive there is to drill for challenged oil, he said, compared to other places where taxes and royalties are flat. In North Dakota, he said, taxes and royalties are 55 percent. “Right now it’s about 85 percent in Alaska.” Other places in the world also have high taxes, but when the price of oil goes up, taxes and earnings rise together.

“We take the risk; we want a fair share of that reward for taking that risk and that’s not happening” in Alaska right now.

Johansen said the question is when Alaska will benefit.

With reduced oil taxes, “If you look at it from a very, very short-term perspective standpoint, the state would see less revenue in the short term.”

But what about the long term, “What about the next generation?” he asked.

If there are “improvements in the fiscal regime here, you will see more action. … You will see more drilling; you will see more projects. … That’s just the way capitalism works.”

He said the question is whether the discussion will be “around short-term gains or are we going to talk about the long-term future?”

BP: prospects exist

Fitzpatrick said BP’s planned activity on the North Slope over the next couple of years “won’t begin to offset” the 7-8 percent decline the company sees in the fields it operates, fields which account for about two-thirds of current North Slope production. What the company currently plans to spend, she said, represents “maintenance, repair work that needs to get done and also development work that currently makes economic sense.”

But the possibilities that exist include prospects “that represent billions of dollars in new investment and billions of barrels of new oil, billions of dollars of new revenue to the state and permanent fund and thousands of long-term, well paying jobs.”

“But these are prospects that do not make economic sense in the current business climate in Alaska,” Fitzpatrick said, and “will remain merely possibilities unless Alaskans and the oil industry work together to make changes to make these possibilities commercially viable and competitive.”

BP’s current plans include continuing the heavy oil pilot that’s on line, “but we’ll not be investing in any further heavy or viscous development beyond some studies over the next couple of years.”

There will be “significant investments in infrastructure and pipeline upgrades,” but capital spending on activities that produce more oil, such as drilling and pad expansion, are “limited or on hold.”

Production down

Production has dropped more than 140,000 barrels per day since ACES passed, Fitzpatrick said. The Department of Revenue’s spring forecast predicts a 13 percent decline in statewide production between 2011 and 2020, she said, but the department “was also clear that 52 percent of the forecast volume in 2020 was from projects under development or evaluation, including projects in existing producing fields.”

She said she didn’t know what the next Revenue forecast will show, but BP is showing steeper declines over that period than it was a year ago.

“We’re looking at something like a 25 percent decline between now and 2020,” Fitzpatrick said.

BP’s focus is on sustaining infrastructure, improving the efficiency of its activities “and doing strictly preliminary work to keep things on line that might be economic then under a different fiscal regime.”

Only two things are keeping BP from sustained decline over the next nine years: Liberty, “which is on federal land and not subject to ACES,” and efforts to extract as much oil as possible from existing fields.

But it’s still a 25 percent decline, she said.

A lot of possibilities

“I have a lot of possibilities; I don’t need to go exploring for them,” Fitzpatrick said. Some of those have had enough work done on them that they are ready for consideration when the investment climate becomes more competitive, she said. Among those are I Pad development at Prudhoe Bay; western region development at Prudhoe; S pad expansion with low salinity water flooding; and Sag River reservoir development at Milne Point.

Fitzpatrick said if those had moved forward over the past four years, “that 25 percent decline that I see would be essentially flat over that timeframe.”

“BP and our partners are poised to invest billions of dollars in new projects,” she said, but those projects can’t compete.

“Alaska’s got major reserves already discovered, but it’s running out of investors willing to spend the billions of dollars necessary to actually make those projects into investment,” Fitzpatrick said.

Two things are required, she said: “New projects have to compete for investment capital and existing activities must generate cash.”

“In this environment, new projects can’t compete for investment; and current activities don’t generate the cash required to actually fund them,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Make the economics less favorable, we do less,” she said. “Make the economics more favorable, like the governor proposed and House Bill 110 would do, we respond accordingly: More investment, more production.”


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Alaska
KEYWORDS: energy; northslope; oil

1 posted on 11/21/2011 7:14:43 AM PST by thackney
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To: thackney

Didn’t Palin “FIX” this by making the oil companies pay their “fair share”.

Pinging all right wing socialist dupes!


2 posted on 11/21/2011 7:19:58 AM PST by noprogs (Borders, Language, Culture....all should be preserved)
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To: noprogs

The fix was a tax rate so high as to make Canadian Oil Sands more economical of an investment.


3 posted on 11/21/2011 7:23:50 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney
I like a lot about Sarah Palin and I know that oil companies are no angels, but business is business and if you strangle the goose too long he'll find someplace else to lay his eggs.
There was a point in time where Alaska was the only big game in town but those days are over.
4 posted on 11/21/2011 7:36:13 AM PST by Recon Dad ("The most important rule in a gunfight is: Always win and cheat if necessary.")
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To: thackney
ConocoPhillips is still spending a lot of money drilling wells, “but we get less and less oil.”

Oil is at $95/bbl today, not $15/bbl.

5 posted on 11/21/2011 7:38:58 AM PST by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
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To: Yo-Yo

And they get to keep more of the dollars when producing outside of Alaska rather than inside.

Where would you invest your capital dollars? In the location with the lowest return?


6 posted on 11/21/2011 7:44:10 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: Yo-Yo

For reference:

When oil prices are $100 a barrel, the total marginal government take in Alaska is 82 percent. In Alberta, it’s 55 percent. In the Gulf of Mexico, it’s 43 percent.

http://www.makealaskacompetitive.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/MAC11-091-CollateralMaterials_V4_HR.pdf


7 posted on 11/21/2011 7:48:21 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Hey Thack, what do they mean about being a “water” company?


8 posted on 11/21/2011 7:51:41 AM PST by headstamp 2 (Time to move forward not to the center.)
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To: headstamp 2
Many oil fields will resemble the simple trap below.

As you start drawing out the oil, you will begin to get water coming up the well. Eventually you will get more water than oil.

The water is separated out and injected back into the reservoir. Often it is injected near the outside of the field while the withdraw is done near to the center.

Keep in mind this isn't a giant open pool but porous rock that will vary the oil/water level in different locations as it is being drawn out. The fluid has a resistance to flow moving through the rock.

Over time, this will help sweep the remaining oil out of the reservoir making more of the oil producible.

But late in the field life, you will be moving far more water than oil.

9 posted on 11/21/2011 7:59:04 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

What ever happened to private property? These tax rates are ridiculous. These rates are a reflection of state control of the means of production. The state has formed a monopoly on the supply of land for resource development. The mineral rights should be auctioned or distributed in some manner. These taxation structures threaten our supply of energy. The monopoly benefits without taking any risks. The risk takers essentially face a confiscatory charge for production that has little relationship to value provided.


10 posted on 11/21/2011 8:15:30 AM PST by businessprofessor
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To: thackney
Around here they truck the water to ‘disposal wells’.
11 posted on 11/21/2011 8:19:35 AM PST by Beagle8U (Free Republic -- One stop shopping ....... It's the Conservative Super WalMart for news .)
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To: businessprofessor
confiscatory charge for production that has little relationship to value provided

What a novel concept. I found when living in Alaska the common belief was the golden goose should be squeezed as hard a possible without strangling it.

The trick is finding that line without crossing it. I believe the goose has already turned quite blue.

12 posted on 11/21/2011 9:00:44 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

NO oil production, NO Lease...
Less oil production, higher taxes(royalies).. less leases..
More oil production, less taxes(royalies).. more leases..

No proven development, No tax forgiveness..
Some proven development, modesty tax forgiveness..
A lot of proven development, a lot of tax forgiveness..

Proven production scamming(gambits).. by Oil Companys..
then ejection from State lottery system..


13 posted on 11/21/2011 9:07:23 AM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole...)
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To: hosepipe
I am confused about some of your points.

NO oil production, NO Lease...

So only the existing producers get to bid on new leases and no new companies?

More oil production, less taxes(royalies).. more leases..

The big major companies get advantages over smaller independents?

A lot of proven development, a lot of tax forgiveness..

Are you asking the companies to trust the government, invest a lot of money and THEN the taxes will get lowered? Really? Would you trust the government this way?

ejection from State lottery system

Lottery? Like the drive in Denali lottery (we won that once) or the Nenana Ice Classic? What lottery?

14 posted on 11/21/2011 9:17:15 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Actually I think the State should be a player.. with a portion of development costs.. a partner.. some skin in the game..

Then smaller developers could compete.. and become larger developers..

But; There would be a lot of room for corruption like, you know, NOW..


15 posted on 11/21/2011 9:39:15 AM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole...)
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To: thackney

Lottery... leases given out to the qualified upon a lottery..
be easier if the State absorbed some of the costs of development..


16 posted on 11/21/2011 9:42:57 AM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole...)
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To: hosepipe
Leases are auctioned off. High bidder wins.

There is not a lottery, I guess you are suggesting one.

Why a lottery instead of an auction to those that qualify.

I see no reason for the state to absorb cost. They just need to limit the amount the skim off the producers to a more reasonable level.

17 posted on 11/21/2011 9:45:28 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: hosepipe
State should be a player.. with a portion of development costs.. a partner.. There would be a lot of room for corruption

You state the primary reason they should not.

And why should they? There is plenty of available capital to develop economic production. Putting the government into just throws money at uneconomic systems like the US has done with wind and solar.

The government needs to limit their involvement to reasonable regulations and taxes, not become more deeply involved and choose winners and losers.

18 posted on 11/21/2011 9:48:30 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

I have never lived in Alaska but your sentiment seems reasonable. The problem with this golden goose mentality is that the state will strangle the goose before it can be resucitated.

Many conservatives are inconsistent about property rights when the state controls the resource. Many Alaskans who would otherwise support limited government in other areas advocate state control of mineral rights. A government monopoly is worse that a private sector monopoly because competition will often break private sector monopolies at least in the long run. Alaska (and other states) are effectively imposing higher energy prices on other states through this government ownership scheme.


19 posted on 11/21/2011 9:58:18 AM PST by businessprofessor
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To: thackney

[ They just need to limit the amount the skim off the producers to a more reasonable level. ]

Maybe.. I’m just a nuube to all this...
But there must be a way to keep the honest ... honest...
and expose the dishonest players and make them pay some kind of a price..

Heck “fish and game” does it all the time..
They miss a few but generally they are successful...
Dishonest players pay a high price..

Leases = licensees same thing.. same “game”..


20 posted on 11/21/2011 10:15:16 AM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole...)
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To: hosepipe

I think the best way to keep honest is to keep is simple and make the amounts paid and produced public and easily accessible.

The convoluted, ever changing, tax schemes and credit are the ways that the problems get created and hid.

Don’t tax profits, it leaves everyone argueing over expenses and credits.

Set the taxes like the royalties are done, on the gross and at a reasonable level.


21 posted on 11/21/2011 10:21:13 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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