Eni's Alaska Drilling Plan Gets OK'd by Trump Administration

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Eni SpAE may become the first energy company to get an oil-exploration permit in federal waters off Alaska since 2015. The decision follows after the Trump administration approved a drilling plan on leases, which the company has been sitting on for a decade.

As part of President Trump's plan to enhance oil and gas drilling, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved the drilling plan of Eni US, a unit of Italy's Eni.

The approval is subject to Eni acquiring permits from other states and federal which in past have generally been approved once BOEM gave its nod.

Eni intends to drill into Beaufort Sea from an artificial island via extended wells over 6 miles (10 kilometers) long. The company plans to begin operations in December. It refused to disclose any details on its drilling plans.

In April, Trump inked an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy executive order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to areas in the Arctic and other places that have been inaccessible to support the industry.

Eni's leases, which will close operations by the end of the year, were located outside an area protected by former President Barack Obama weeks before he left office. The company's plan to progress with risky and expensive drilling comes in spite of years of low oil prices and risky Arctic conditions.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS.A) suspended its exploration pursuit offshore Alaska in 2015 after one of its leased ships was damaged in unexplored waters, while environmentalists discovered an existing law that restricted the company's ability to drill.

Environmentalists complained that the administration rushed the approval of Eni's plan, providing the public only 21 days to comment on it and only 10 days to put their opinion forward on scoping for an environmental review required by federal law.

Currently, the artificial island supports production wells on state of Alaska leases. The federal exploration plan recommends two extended-reach main holes and two "sidetracks" to appraise oil and gas at federal leases. The exploration wells would start from the island and extend to the ocean floor to the federal leases.

Armstrong Oil and Gas submitted the original winning lease bids at a 2005 federal lease sale. Eni anticipates the drilling to commence in December and end in May 2019.

The permit does not authorize Eni to produce oil. That would entail submission and approval of a development and production plan.

Shares of the company have lost 3.5% over the last three months compared with the Zacks categorized Oil & Gas - International Integrated industry's decline of 1.1%.

Eni currently has a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell). Some better-ranked stocks in the same space include Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP BWP , Cheniere Energy Inc LNG and Canadian Natural Resources Limited Ltd. CNQ . All these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank stocks here .

Boardwalk Pipeline Partners delivered a positive earnings surprise of 11.90% in the preceding quarter. The company beat estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, with an average positive earnings surprise of 17.31%.

Cheniere Energy delivered a positive earnings surprise of 162.16% in the preceding quarter. The company beat estimates in one of the trailing three quarters, with an average positive earnings surprise of 14.0%.

Canadian Natural Resources delivered a positive earnings surprise of 30.77% in the preceding quarter. It surpassed estimates in two of the trailing four quarters, with an average negative earnings surprise of 275.46%.

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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.

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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