| ANCHORAGE, Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska Feb 4 Alaska will offer
potential developers the chance to explore geothermal resources
at an active volcano in Cook Inlet, the state's oldest producing
oil and gas basin, state officials said on Monday.
The geothermal lease sale on May 8 will coincide with oil
and gas lease sales, the state Department of Natural Resources
said. The state will offer oil and gas exploration rights around
Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula, an area of southwestern
Alaska that has had only limited petroleum exploration.
The geothermal piece is 66,000 acres at Mount Augustine, a
4,134-foot island volcano 180 miles southwest of Anchorage and
60 miles southwest of the Kenai Peninsula town of Homer.
The volcano's most recent explosive eruptions were in 2006,
sending ash clouds that disrupted air traffic in Anchorage.
Other recent eruptions were in 1986, 1976, 1971 and 1963-64,
according to the federal-state Alaska Volcano Observatory.
The volcano poses risks to explorers including earthquakes,
landslides and mudflows, volcanic gas and ash releases,
explosions and lava flows, the department's presale report said.
But its location, near the state's most populated region,
offers potential advantages, since geothermal energy could "help
satisfy the increasing demand for electricity and energy
sources" in south-central Alaska, the report said.
Geothermal plants capture power created by steam from liquid
boiled deep underground, and a push for cleaner energy sources
has led to a partial revival in the U.S. West.
Alaska's last geothermal lease sale was in 2008.
Nevada-based Ormat Technologies spent $3.3 million for
leases at 11,070-foot Mount Spurr, a volcano 80 miles west of
Since then, Ormat has been conducting exploration drilling
and other work, with support of the Alaska Energy Authority. So
far, drilling results have been disappointing, but additional
drilling in a separate area of the volcano is planned for this
summer, Ormat said in a 2012 report to state officials.
The Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale will offer 815 tracts
sprawling over 4 million acres. Production from the area, south
of Anchorage, has been declining since the 1970s, though there
has been a flurry of new exploration led by smaller companies.
"Cook Inlet still holds significant resources and we are
hoping for a continued trend of successful lease sales and
increased drilling activity," Bill Barron, director of the
department's Division of Oil and Gas, said in a statement.
The Alaska Peninsula oil and gas lease sale will offer 1,047
tracts covering 5.8 million acres.