Italian company Eni preparing to begin oil exploration in Beaufort Sea

(Photo from Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Pre-drill inspections are expected to begin this week for the first Outer Continental Shelf oil exploration plan approved for Alaska’s federal waters since Shell.

Italian energy company, Eni, hopes to begin exploring the Beaufort Sea sometime this month. The drilling will take place on Sky Island, an artificial gravel platform that actually sits in state waters. According to Mark Fesmire, regional director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the company will be drilling horizontally from the island into federal waters.

“One of the advantages that this project has is that it will build on existing infrastructure,” Fesmire said. “It's relatively close – much closer than the last projects we've had – to infrastructure that can be used to bring the oil to market, if they are successful."

Fesmire says the agency will send an engineer and an inspector the site this week.

An Eni spokesperson was not able to comment on the plans, but the company has said that the exploration phase will create as many as 110 jobs.

Environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, have already spoken out against the exploration plan. Lois Epstein with the Wilderness Society says they are concerned with any new oil and gas development in the Arctic. But right now, their primary concern is the tax bill recently approved by the Senate, which includes a provision opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

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