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Murkowski pushes for more oil, gas options offshore Alaska

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said it is unclear if there is commercial interest in drilling in U.S. Arctic waters, but said regulators should keep the option open for producers.

"You don't know until you have the opportunity to put the lease sales out there," Murkowski told reporters March 11 at CERAWeek by IHS Markit in Houston. "We need to set the table for participation."

Analysts and lobbyists claim there is limited interest in U.S. offshore oil and gas production, outside the U.S. Gulf of Mexico waters. Major oil companies are particularly hesitant to explore the arctic after Royal Dutch Shell PLC abandoned its Alaska offshore efforts in 2015, after seven years and $7 billion in costs.

However, Murkowski stressed that Shell's experience was unique since its drilling operations were limited by federal regulations, which have since been eased.

In January 2018, the U.S. Interior Department unveiled a draft proposed lease sale program that called for 47 separate sales in nearly all federal program areas between 2019 and 2024, including 19 proposed sales in offshore Alaska waters.

The plan, which is expected to be released in its formal proposed version within weeks and finalized later in the year, calls for three lease sales in the Beaufort Sea, three in the Chukchi Sea and two for the Cook Inlet.

Brian Scheid is a reporter at S&P Global Platts. S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Platts are owned by S&P Global Inc.