Friday, March 30, 2012

Alaska Fear Factor a reality for winter North Slope explorers

—Kay Cashman
Petroleum News

Petroleum News’ Aug. 14 issue carries this headline: North Slope booms.

At the time, five operators were preparing to drill as many as 28 exploration wells in 2012.

ConocoPhillips, Pioneer Natural Resources and Savant later joined the group bringing the operator count to eight and the well count to 32. Then Great Bear Petroleum upped its possible wells to eight, bumping the count to a high of 34.

2012 would have been the busiest exploration season since 1969, when 33 exploration wells were drilled following the Prudhoe Bay discovery.

PN uses “2012,” not the “winter exploration season of 2012,” because not all the drilling would be from ice pads, restricted to just a few months when the tundra was frozen — Great Bear had year-round access because its wellsites were on gravel in an existing transportation corridor.

Here are the explorers, the wells they hoped to drill, and what happened to bring the well count down to 15.

• Repsol: 15 wells from five pads, North Slope Borough and Nuiqsut said yes to only four pads, with no more than three drilling rigs operating at one time, gas blowout (no oil spilled on tundra, no injuries) on Qugruk-2 pad, asked to reapply for drilling permits on other two Q pads. As of March 29, well count down to two, Q-4 and Kachemak-1. Drilling going well at K-1. March 29 received permit for Q-4.

• Brooks Range Petroleum: Two wells, one drilled because got all the information needed from the first (good news).

• UltraStar Exploration: One well, canceled, not enough rigs.

• Linc Energy: Four wells, by the time found a rig (Repsol) headquarters said too late to start.

• Savant: One well, regulatory delay, finally got drilling permit, hoping to spud early April.

• ConocoPhillips: One well, completed.

• Pioneer: Two wells, one completed, other being drilled.

• Great Bear: Six to eight wells, likely only six will be needed for proof of concept program, had to wait for rig to come off North Slope, has Nabors 105AC under contract as of May 15, 3D seismic shoot already under way.