Updated: 15 minutes ago Published: 15 minutes ago
Oil company ConocoPhillips said Friday that it has made the final decision to move ahead with the massive Willow oil development on Alaska’s North Slope.
Having received approval from the Biden administration this spring and favorable court decisions over the past year, the company had already kicked off initial work on the $8 billion project, but Friday’s announcement marks the company’s final go-ahead to bring the development to first oil.
“We are excited to reach this significant milestone,” said Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman and chief executive officer, in a Friday statement, adding, “with this project authorization, we’ve begun winter construction and Alaskans have started to receive the benefits from responsible energy development.”
The Willow project is located in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on federal land. It is expected to produce oil for 30 years, including 180,000 barrels daily at its peak — a significant amount, given that the current output of the trans-Alaska pipeline is at about 470,000 barrels per day.
The project received a pivotal environmental approval from the Biden administration in March, despite aggressive pushback from conservation and some Indigenous groups that viewed it as a betrayal of the president’s stated priority to address climate change.
Some of those groups sued in an effort to halt the project, arguing that it should not have been approved because it will result in significant greenhouse gas emissions and impact wildlife and subsistence resources for people living in the area. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against their request to put winter work on hold, allowing construction to move ahead as the court considers arguments in the case.
In the company’s Friday statement, ConocoPhillips’ CEO thanked Alaska political leaders and North Slope Indigenous leaders who advocated for the project ahead of its approval, and promised Willow will be developed “while adhering to the highest environmental standards.”
This winter, ConocoPhillips has said it plans to complete $900 million in construction activity, and expects to employ 1,800 people. Hundreds of staff and contractors are already working on the project, according to a recent statement from a company spokeswoman. It will ultimately create over 2,500 construction jobs and about 300 long-term jobs, according to Friday’s announcement.