September 11, 1998 --- Vol. 4, No. 45September 1998

State wants winter exploration in area proposed for subsurface leasing only

The state of Alaska urged Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to issue a record of decision and conduct a lease sale in the northeast National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The state’s Sept. 8 comments on the final integrated activity plan/environmental impact statement for the northeast NPR-A included recommendations for modifying treatment of the area adjacent to Teshekpuk Lake.

“The state strongly supports environmentally sound oil and gas leasing in the planning area in conjunction with an effective research and monitoring program,” Gov. Tony Knowles said in the state’s comments to Babbitt.

“There is a modification to the FEIS that I believe would strengthen the leasing program while maintaining the high level of consideration for environmental protection,” he said.

Teshekpuk Lake was excluded from leasing. An adjacent area was available only for subsurface leasing, with no surface drilling allowed. The assumption in the FEIS was that this adjacent area could be explored from its borders using extended reach drilling.

Knowles recommended to Babbitt that this adjacent area be made available for winter exploration drilling. Extended reach drilling, the governor explained, “has been used almost exclusively for development, rather than exploration.

In addition to being expensive, Knowles said, “directionally drilled wells are less accurate in the exploration phase because of their reliance on seismic data, which is insensitive to geologic depth. In contrast, vertical test wells provide the unambiguous data crucial to the exploration phase.”

Vertical test wells drilled in winter, the governor said, “have an insignificant impact on surface resources.” He reminded the secretary of their 1997 summer visit to the Alpine field, where “only a white location box at the drilling site appears as evidence of winter activity.”

Unocal produces 1,500 barrels of oil per day from new McArthur River horizontal well

Unocal Alaska Resources said Sept. 10 that a new horizontal development well in the McArthur River field in Cook Inlet is producing 1,500 barrels of oil per day.

The reworked well raises gross daily oil production from the Grayling platform by more than 36 percent.

The Grayling G-15RD horizontal well was sidetracked from an existing well. It was drilled to a point 9,507 feet from the platform at a vertical depth of 9,559 feet. The well was completed in the Hemlock formation for more than 2,700 feet.

The well was part of Unocal’s development program for the Grayling platform, in which the company has a 56.05 percent working interest.

“This wellbore sidetrack demonstrates the opportunities to help extend the productive life of the field. Other McArthur River field platforms have similar development opportunities,” said Martin Morell, Unocal Alaska Resources’ oil and gas operations manager.

This well completed Unocal’s 1998 program of reworking and redrilling wells on the Grayling platform. Similar horizontal well development work is slated for 1999 from additional platforms in the McArthur River field.

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