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Shell intends to become major player in Alaska’s oil industry Shell intends to become major player in Alaska’s oil industry

Associated Press – April 8, 2008 6:54 PM ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – As two longtime players in Alaska’s oil industry announced landmark plans for a gas pipeline out of the North Slope fields, the president of Shell Oil seemed a bit sheepish about calling a teleconference to discuss his first-ever visit to the region.

John Hoffmeister acknowledged that it was hard to compete against the big news from BP PLC and ConocoPhillips.

But after roughly a decade of absence from the Alaskan oil patch, the Dutch oil giant has been making headlines of its own.

Most production is focused in the Arctic coastal tundra of the North Slope.

Shell is trying to revive its presence by taking oil and gas exploration offshore, into the Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering seas.

Hoffmeister said he met in February with officials from four North Slope communities to reassure them that this is “a long-term play by Shell.”

The company faces strong opposition from environmental groups and many Alaska Natives and fishermen.

They worry that undersea drilling or a major spill will cause irreparable harm to polar bears, seals, whales and other marine species.

Although he did not discuss specifics, Hoffmeister said his job was to reassure people that the company is open to balancing social, cultural and environmental issues with oil production.

The trip took him to the Inupiat Eskimo communities of Wainwright, Nuiqsit, Point Lay and Barrow.

Barrow Mayor Michael Stotts says he compliments Hoffmeister on taking the time to visit the tiny communities, which are worried about the effects of drilling on their subsistence food base.

Hoffmeister said Shell does not have plans to participate in construction of the gas pipeline, but says the company would be interested in using it to get its products to market.

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