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Story Last modified at 12:12 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lease sales are a reason for oil optimism in Cook Inlet


To say that last week's robust bidding on Cook Inlet exploration leases was good news could be one of the obvious understatements of the year.

"We're thrilled," Bill Barron, director of the state Division of Oil and Gas, told The Associated Press. "This has been a great day for Alaska, a great day for the Cook Inlet."

The number of bids for Inlet tracts nearly tripled from last year, increasing from 37 to 110. Preliminary figures show Apache Alaska Corp. as the most aggressive bidder, submitting 91 bids for just more than 515,000 acres. Estimates suggest Apache's investment at about $9 million out of the total $11 million bid.

Two other companies, Marathon Oil Co. and Aurora Exploration also bid on leases.

Lisa Parker, a contractor assisting Apache with permits, told the AP: "Apache believes Cook Inlet is underexplored for oil."

Are those words of enthusiasm to Alaska ears or what?

Of course, we've still reason to be cautious. Exploration is one thing, discovery another. And while $11 million sounds like a king's ransom to most of us, it's a token amount to companies that risk investment around the world.

Still, that investment translates into jobs and an economic boost that we desperately need.

"You've got seismic programs that will take place," Barron told the AP. "You've got exploration drilling programs, delineation wells to be drilled, infrastructure to be built, tie into existing infrastructure. All of that is good jobs for the Cook Inlet ..."

Petroleum workers are our friends and neighbors, and for businesses, our customers. Those folks and the companies that employ them are an integral part of the Chugiak-Eagle River economy. Our fortunes are but a piece of the economic equation that rises or falls as a function of oil production. It's been that way since 1969.

We wish all the leaseholders success in their exploration, and good returns on their investments. Their success can only bode well for our community.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 29, 2011.