Tuesday, December 27, 2011

North Slope exploration well count drops; NSB OKs Repsol

Kay Cashman
Petroleum News

The North Slope Borough Planning Commission’s recent approval of Repsol’s ice pad permits for the coming winter exploration season carries a stipulation that allows no more than three drilling rigs to operate at the same time, even though four drilling pads were approved, effectively dropping the number of total penetrations by Repsol from 12 to nine.

In response to concerns from local residents, prior to the planning commission’s Dec. 15 meeting in Nuiqsut, Repsol had pulled its permit request for the Qugruk-3 pad, reducing its drilling pads from five to four and probable wells from 15 to 12 (see map prepared by Mapmakers in September, prior to that decision, at http://bit.ly/tC1Wev).

The commission approved a fifth pad, but it was for staging ice road construction and drilling operations (not shown on map).

Savant gets rig for half season

Drilling operations have to be complete at Kachemach-1 pad before drilling starts at the single offshore pad in the mix, Qugruk-4, which is the reason for the number of vertical wells, laterals and geologic sidetracks in Repsol’s program dropping to nine, Petroleum News sources say.
When Nabors 9ES rig is done drilling at Kachemach-1 pad, it will be moved to Savant Alaska’s eastern North Slope Red Wolf exploration pad, essentially splitting the short winter season in half.

Kachemach-1 is southwest of Kuparuk, near Meltwater. Except for Qugruk-4 pad north of the Colville unit in the nearshore waters of the Beaufort Sea, all of Repsol’s Qugruk pads are between the Colville River and Kuparuk River units. Following the Dec. 15 commission decision, the fifth rig that Repsol reserved for this winter’s drilling was being considered by Linc Energy for its five to six well program at Umiat, but Linc has reportedly decided to postpone its drilling until next winter, in part because there isn’t enough time to finalize all the details of its program.

The other oil and gas companies that initially wanted to start drilling in January but do not have rigs under contract as of Dec. 22, are Great Bear Petroleum and UltraStar Exploration. (Great Bear is the only one of the 2012 North Slope explorers planning a year-round program and that’s because its proposed four to six drilling pads are in an existing industrial corridor along the Dalton Highway, so the company is not restricted to having to use seasonal ice roads and pads.)

UltraStar has already postponed its well until next winter, but Great Bear’s intentions have been to get a rig for January drilling, so perhaps it will do a deal with Repsol?

Neither company is saying anything at this time, since negotiations, if they exist, would have just begun.

Brooks Range, Pioneer on track

With Nabors 7ES rig under contract, Brooks Range Petroleum Corp.’s plans are still on track to deepen and test its previously drilled North Tarn No. 1 well and to drill two to three appraisal wells, the Mustang No. 1 , 2 and 3, all in the newly formed Southern Miluveach unit on the western boundary of the Kuparuk River unit. (The September Repsol map mentioned above does not show final boundaries for Brooks Range units established by the State of Alaska. See Nov. 6 PN article with current Mapmakers unit map at http://bit.ly/spBC0q.)

With Nabors 27E under contract, Pioneer Natural Resources is still planning to drill two Nuna wells this winter, targeting the Torok formation. Both bottomholes are in the newly expanded Oooguruk unit.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission defines the wells as exploratory because they will be drilled to discover or delineate a new pool.

Following is the current well count estimate for 2012 exploration and evaluation wells, with 22 penetrations on the low side and 27 on the high side:

• Brooks Range Petroleum: 1 rig, 2-3 wells

• Great Bear Petroleum: 1 rig, 4-6 vertical wells + 4-6 laterals/sidetracks

• Pioneer 1 rig, 2 wells

• Repsol: 3.5 rigs, 9 wells, including sidetracks and laterals

• Savant 0.5 rig, 1 well