July 11, 2001 --- Vol. 7, No. 77July 2001

Phillips hopes to name Alberta Energy operator at McCovey prospect

Phillips Alaska Inc. has asked the U.S. Minerals Management Service to allow the McCovey unit owners an extra 90 days to file a new exploration plan. The request was based on Phillips’ desire to transfer unit operatorship to AEC Oil & Gas Inc., a subsidiary of Alberta Energy Co. Ltd.

In May, MMS approved a suspension of operations application from Phillips, operator of the central Beaufort Sea unit. Phillips contended that proposed permit stipulations from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation would make the project uneconomic. Suspension approval was contingent on the unit operator filing a new exploration plan by July 31.

In his July 5 letter to MMS, Phillips land manager James Ruud, said he “anticipated” the “operatorship change process combined with the preparation of a new exploration plan will take approximately 90 days,” giving Oct. 31 as the latest date a plan would be submitted to MMS.

In a July 11 interview, Steve Harding, AEC’s Alaska group team leader, told PNA that the change in operatorship was not definite and was contingent on “several things that haven’t been formalized.” He said it would be six or seven weeks before a final decision would be made.

Jeff Walker, regional supervisor for MMS, said his agency would respond to Phillips’ request for an extension by the end of July. He said an additional 90 days “seems reasonable given the complexities of the McCovey project.”

Mackenzie Delta drilling gives lift to barge traffic

The pace is quickening ahead of this winter's drilling season on the Mackenzie Delta as barge traffic on the Mackenzie River races 40 percent ahead of 1999.

A spokeswoman for Northern Transportation Co. Ltd., whose existing fleet can handle 220,000 tons, said summer shipments should reach 140,000 tons of fuel and dry cargo.

The company currently has 90 barges pulled by 10 mainline tugs, with tows ranging up to 7,000 tons over about a 15-week season, which usually ends in early October.

The petroleum industry-related shipments are the largest in 20 years, starting with Petro-Canada's decision to advance its drilling program, the spokeswoman said.

In addition, Anderson Exploration is shipping a rig to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, along with seismic materials and a camp to start drilling its Delta lease.

A further increase in barge traffic is anticipated next summer, when Alberta Energy Co. and Chevron Canada Resources are expected to step up their activity.

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