ConocoPhillips' (COP) Willow Oil Project Wins Legal Battle

ConocoPhillips (COP), the U.S. oil giant, received a favorable ruling from a U.S. District Court judge in a significant project development, approving the Biden administration's endorsement of the massive 600-million-barrel Willow oil project on Alaska's North Slope. This decision enabled COP to proceed with the development of the $7.5 billion project.

The judge dismissed requests from environmental and indigenous groups to vacate the project approval. The Willow project, situated in the federally designated National Petroleum Reserve, had faced legal challenges from these groups who expressed concerns about its environmental impact. Environmental and indigenous groups raised specific concerns about the project's potential contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. They argued that federal agencies overseeing the approval process failed to adequately consider the ramifications of increased emissions on ice-reliant species, including polar bears and seals.

The U.S. Department of the Interior had formally given its approval to the Willow project back in March, setting the stage for ConocoPhillips to move forward with the development. The court's decision enhances the legal soundness of the approval process, sending a green light to the energy company to proceed with its plans.

ConocoPhillips had initially proposed five drilling sites for the Willow project, but the Bureau of Land Management greenlit three sites. This decision allowed for the construction of up to 199 wells, with the project's peak oil production estimated at 180,000 barrels per day. However, the associated greenhouse gas emissions over the project's 30-year life are estimated to be at least 263 million tons.

Following the judge's ruling, ConocoPhillips announced its intention to push forward with the construction work on the Willow project this winter. Despite the legal victory for ConocoPhillips, the project is likely to remain under close observation from both environmental advocates and industry stakeholders.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Currently, ConocoPhillips carries a Zack Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the energy sector are Matador Resources Company MTDR, Liberty Energy Inc. LBRT and Oceaneering International, Inc. OII, each currently sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Matador Resources is among the leading oil and gas explorers in the shale and unconventional resources in the United States. The company’s prime intention is to create more value for shareholders and generate lucrative returns from the capital invested in unconventional plays. MTDR has witnessed an upward earnings estimate revision for 2024 over the past 30 days.

MTDR’s earnings beat estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, delivering an average surprise of 13.89%.

Liberty Energy is a North American provider of hydraulic fracturing services to upstream energy operators. The company’s multi-basin presence offers an attractive upside opportunity compared to most of its peers. Liberty's strong relationship with high-quality customers provides revenue visibility and business certainty. LBRT has witnessed an upward earnings estimate revision for 2023 and 2024 over the past 30 days.

LBRT’s earnings beat estimates in three of the trailing four quarters and missed once, delivering an average surprise of 9.88%.

Oceaneering International is a leading provider of integrated technology solutions, active at all phases of the offshore oilfield lifecycle. Its strong relationship with high-quality customers provides revenue visibility and business certainty. The company has witnessed an upward earnings estimate revision for 2023 and 2024 in the past 30 days.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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