Conoco sees no Chukchi Sea drilling before 2015

HOUSTON, April 25 Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:22pm EDT

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HOUSTON, April 25 (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips, which has put its Alaskan drilling plans on hold because of regulatory uncertainty, will not drill exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea any sooner than 2015, the company's chief financial officer said on Thursday.

"It's not going to be 2014, so what that really means is 2015 at the earliest," Jeff Sheets, Conoco's CFO said in an interview. "It's something we will continue to evaluate and will continue to try and understand what the requirements are going to be to operate out there."

Earlier this month, Conoco said it would not be prudent to invest in the Chukchi Sea now because of "evolving" federal regulations and permit standards.

Conoco's decision not to drill two exploration wells next year in the Chukchi Sea follows Royal Dutch Shell Plc's announcement in February that it would not drill in Alaska's Arctic seas this year after a 2012 season that culminated in the grounding of its drillship in a storm.

Conoco, which reported first-quarter earnings earlier on Thursday that met Wall Street expectations, is also contemplating a bigger investment in Alaska after that state's legislators slashed oil production taxes.

"We are currently analyzing the possible impact to our business including where we could or would increase investment in Alaska," Matt Fox, Conoco's head of exploration and production said on a conference call with analysts.

Conoco's current Alaska production fell nearly 8 percent in the first quarter to 218,000 barrels oil equivalent per day, but new work is planned for the North Slope.

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