Texas company to build island in Arctic waters to tap oil

While Arctic offshore drilling by Royal Dutch Shell PLC sparked protests across continents this year, a more modest proposal by Texas oil company Hilcorp Alaska LLC for  petroleum exploration has not run into major environmental opposition.

While Shell proposed exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea about 80 miles off Alaska's northwest coast, Hilcorp Alaska is seeking to build a gravel island as a platform for five or more extraction wells capable of tapping oil 6 miles from shore in the Beaufort Sea.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would assess the environmental effect of a production plan for the Liberty Project by Hilcorp, a subsidiary of Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Co.

A successful well would spur petroleum production in federal Arctic waters for the first time.

Hilcorp's planned 23-acre gravel island, about the size of 17.4 football fields, had drawn mixed reviews from conservationists, which environmentalists have condemned outright, AP reported.

According to Kriten Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Development, global warming was melting sea ice habitat beneath polar bears, walrus and ice seals.

"The impacts of an oil spill on top of that could be devastating and would be nearly impossible to clean up," she said.