Everything from angry reminders of past disasters to pleas for responsible development were expressed by area residents at two community outreach meetings held by Buccaneer Energy last week.
Buccaneer held the Oct. 24 meeting at Best Western Bidarka Inn and the Oct. 25 meeting in McNeil Canyon Elementary School gym to discuss:
■ Cosmopolitan, an offshore drilling project near Stariski that will use the Endeavour-Spirit of Independence jack-up drilling rig currently undergoing repairs at Homer’s Deepwater Dock; and
■ West Eagle, an exploration project focused primarily on natural gas, but also the possibility of oil, to be located approximately 20 miles east of Homer off Basargin Road.
“This is not a debate,” said Mary Ann Pease of MAP Consulting in Anchorage, a public relations firm representing Buccaneer.
Rather, the meeting was intended to be “a dialogue that is meant to bring us to a better place at the end of the evening,” she said.
Also representing Buccaneer were Mark Landt, vice president of land and business development with 25 years experience in oil and gas, 15 of those years working on projects in Alaska, Christina Anderson and Donna Robertson.
Landt began by distancing the Endeavour from the George Ferris, a Standard Oil-owned jack-up drilling rig that got stuck in Mud Bay and had to be freed with explosives in 1976. The legs on the George Ferris were lowered into 82 feet of bottom sediment and remained in that position for 16 months, said Landt.
“The Endeavour legs are in 15-20 feet of mud substrate and will not be here for anything remotely close to 16 months,” said Landt. “This is not and will never be a George Ferris situation.”
Landt did note the Endeavour, which arrived in Cook Inlet on Aug. 25, was not expected to remain in Kachemak Bay as long as it has, but had run into “a few unforeseen issues.” Those issues include the recall and replacement of a fast-rescue craft on the rig, repair of the general alarm system and the installation of a replacement valve that is part of the rig’s firefighting system.
Revised plans called for the Endeavour to leave Homer by Oct. 31, but its actual date of departure is still unknown.
Upon leaving Homer, the jack-up rig is to move into position for Buccaneer’s Cosmopolitan Project near Stariski. In the past, ConocoPhillips and Pioneer Natural Resources attempted to reach offshore oil formations discovered in that area by Pennzoil in the 1970s. Earlier this year, Buccaneer and BlueCrest Energy obtained the drilling rights and plan to drill vertically into the area’s shallow gas formation.
At the community outreach meetings, when Roberta Highland asked about Buccaneer’s response in a worst-case scenario, Landt said he was “not prepared to comment on worst case.” Referring to the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Alaska in 1964, Mossy Kilcher asked, “Do you have any idea what you would do in case of an earthquake of that magnitude?”
“We would shut down immediately,” said Landt.
Landt also was questioned about the location of blowout preventers, with reference made to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. That incident was linked to a blowout preventer malfunction that resulted in the daily release of more than 5,000 barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
“There’s a fundamental difference,” said Landt. “They were in 3,000 feet of water and dealing with pressures at 3,000 of water. Ours are on the rig itself. We can visually inspect them.”
The status of permits and maps of the projects’ locations were requested by those attending the meetings, and Pease said Buccaneer is “committed to updating the website with some of the more technical information.”
“If you are going to take our resources from our community, what insurance do we have that those resources aren’t going to be shipped overseas and will get shipped to our houses?” a community member asked.
“First of all, these are resources of the state of Alaska. They’re not anyone’s resources. The resources are meant for Southcentral Alaska,” said Pease, adding that Buccaneer has contracts in place with Enstar Natural Gas Company.
Content disposal plans for drilling muds were questioned. Landt said muds coming from hydrocarbon-bearing zones would likely be shipped to permitted disposal wells, some muds could be solidified and put in landfills and nontoxic drilling fluids would be disposed of overboard in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s NPDES. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, permit program.
“Buccaneer is moving into zones where there are very sensitive gyres that are basically nurseries for fisheries,” said an audience member. “Is there any possibility Buccaneer would entertain a zero discharge as a gesture of goodwill to the communities that depend on fisheries?”
“We’ll continue to evaluate it,” said Landt.
The condition of East End Road for moving equipment to the West Eagle site was raised and Landt said Buccaneer would pay for whatever improvements were required under permits with the Alaska Department of Transportation.
Water — how much and where from — required for drilling the West Eagle project was raised. Available surface water is not adequate, “so we’ll have storage tanks on site. … We can truck it in,” said Landt. A source was not identified.
Taz Tally questioned Buccaneer’s plans to “become part of the community.”
“We do have a full-time office and employees in Kenai and we’re in the process of opening up an office in Anchorage,” said Landt. “Given the success of the West Eagle project, we fully anticipate we’ll have an office here.”
Asked if Buccaneer’s project plans were “a done deal” or proposals, Pease said, “Everything is, indeed, a proposal. It’s very uncertain, as a matter of fact.”
Reminded by an audience member of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, Pease said the Buccaneer team “feels we’re stewards of the land and want to do everything possible to get information out to the community so you can hold us accountable because we owe that to you.”
Pointing to a sign on the McNeil gym wall urging students to behave responsibly, Craig Forrest asked, “If you do have a major problem, who goes to jail? Who pays? Who is going to make it right for us, the people who live here today?”
“Responsible development is what I’m hearing you want,” said Pease. “That certainly is our commitment and will remain at the forefront of everything.”
“We’re asking questions out of deep heartfelt love for this area,” said Mossy Kilcher. “I hope some of the things we’re asking will make a difference.”
“They will absolutely make a difference,” said Pease. “None of these thoughts will be left without being carefully considered.”
For updates on Buccaneer Energy projects, visit www.buccenergy.com. For more information, call Anderson in Buccaneer’s Kenai office at (855) 865-2298.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.