Eni receives a federal permit for offshore drilling in the United States Arctic



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ANCHORAGE, Alaska

A subsidiary of an Italian energy company has received a federal permit to drill the first oil exploration wells in the Arctic waters of the United States. UU In two years.

The Federal Office of Safety and Environmental Protection announced on Tuesday it has approved a request from Eni US Operating Co. Inc. to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea.

Drilling could begin next month from Spy Island, an artificial island of gravel in state waters about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the coast near Prudhoe Bay. Eni will use long-range drilling techniques to reach federal submerged lands.

Drilling would be the first in federal Arctic waters since Royal Dutch Shell in 2015 sent an exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska.

Last year, former President Barack Obama banned oil and gas exploration in most of the Arctic Ocean. In April, President Donald Trump ordered Home Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the ban with the goal of opening up offshore areas. Environmental groups and Alaska Natives in May sued to maintain the ban.

Environmental groups strongly opposed the drilling of the Arctic Ocean. In a statement, Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the drilling threatens coastal wildlife in the Arctic.

"The Trump administration risks a major oil spill by allowing this foreign corporation to drill into relentless waters off Alaska." she said. "Offshore drilling threatens coastal communities and wildlife and will only push us towards the climate crisis."

Mark Fesmire, director of the Alaska region of BSEE, said in the announcement that agency staff conducted a comprehensive review of the design, testing procedures and safety protocol.

Eni already has production wells on 11-acre Spy Island Island (.04 square kilometers) built in state waters 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) deep. It is one of the four artificial islands in the Beaufort Sea that support oil production.

A subsidiary of Hilcorp, based in Houston, has proposed a fifth island in federal waters as part of its Liberty Project, a facility that could contain production wells, a processing facility and the beginning of a submarine oil pipeline that carries oil to the coast and connections to the trans-Alaska pipeline.

Eni plans four exploration wells. Exploratory well operations will add at least 100 jobs, the company said. Production could generate up to 150 jobs in the region and 20,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the company.

The permit was issued when Congress considered opening additional drilling in the Arctic within an Alaskan wildlife refuge. Congressional Republicans are pushing for rental sales in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to help pay for the tax cuts proposed by President Donald Trump.

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