BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. responded to the current economic climate with a drastic reduction in drilling activity at the Prudhoe Bay unit, the only unit it operates in Alaska.
The local subsidiary of the global energy company drilled 75 development wells at the North Slope unit in 2015, 43 wells in 2016 and only 11 through the first half of this year.
And yet, production has remained stable, suggesting new operational efficiencies.
BP files three plans of development each year for the Prudhoe Bay unit - one for the Initial Participating Areas early in the year, one for the Greater Point McIntyre Area in the middle of the year and one for the Western Satellites toward the end of the year.
Initial Participating AreasIn its most recent plan of development for the Initial Participating Areas, from March 2017, BP announced a 13.5 percent decline in drilling activity for the current year.
The company said it planned to drill between four to seven rotary sidetracks and 20 to 24 coiled tubing drilling sidetracks in the current development year, down from seven rotary sidetracks and 28 coiled tubing sidetracks in 2016. The plan also included one new well at the Initial Participating Areas in 2017, down from two new wells in 2016. The company expected its rigged workover program to remain flat, at two to four projects.
The proposed 2017 program is geographically focused - three sidetracks at F pad, four sidetracks at 3 pad, 9 pad and 17 pad and a sidetrack at J pad, plus a few scattered wells.
Actual IPA drilling activity through the first half of the year included two sidetracks at 3 pad, one at 9 pad, one at 15 pad and sidetracks at D pad, F pad, L pad and V pad.
Even with the decline in drilling activity, BP provided a production forecast in line with 2016 levels - between 158,000 and 198,000 barrels per day for oil and between 30,000 and 41,000 bpd for natural gas liquids. By comparison, the company projected oil production between 157,000 and 196,000 bpd and natural gas liquids production between 36,000 and 45,000 bpd in a revised 2016 forecast.
Actual crude oil and condensate production from the Initial Participating Areas was 197,900 bpd from the in 2016, up from 196,400 bpd in 2015, and actual natural gas liquids production was 38,000 bpd in 2016, equal to 2015.
The company attributed the increased Initial Participating Areas oil production in 2016 to “the lack of any production impacting facility TARs (turnarounds), strong wellwork and drilling performance, and increased emphasis on mitigating and minimizing deferrals.”
The Initial Participating Areas production increases in 2016 came despite a 38 percent decline in drilling and a nearly 19 percent decline in rate-adding well work projects.
BP originally proposed a 31-well program for the Initial Participating Areas in 2016 and actually drilled 37 wells, down from a 60-well development program in 2015. The company performed approximately 1,000 well work jobs at the Initial Participating Areas in 2016, including 336 that added production. The company performed approximately 1,800 jobs at the Initial Participating Areas in 2015, of which 413 were rate adding.
Combining drilling and workover operations, the company performed 3.8 rig years of work in 2015, 1.8 rig years of work in 2016 and proposed 1.3 rig years of work for 2017.
Greater Point McIntyre AreaThe future of the Greater Point McIntyre Area depends on seismic.
BP conducted the North Prudhoe seismic survey over the northern portion of the Prudhoe Bay unit in 2014 and 2015, completed the survey in April 2015 and completed a stage of the processing in September 2016, according to its most recent plan of development.
Results will likely guide future development decision. “Interpretation of the data is currently being prioritized across the Prudhoe Bay Unit. Interpretation will focus on improving the structure mapping over the field and an understanding of the subsurface areas of interest (Kuparuk, Sag, Ivishak, Lisburne, and Alapah intervals),” BP wrote.
Liquids production increased at the Lisburne, Niakuk and Raven fields, declined at the Point McIntyre field and was offline at the North Prudhoe Bay and West Beach fields.
The only drilling activities planned for the Greater Point McIntyre Area this year are one development well at the Lisburne field and one development well at the Raven field.
BP drilled the L3-25 well at the Lisburne field this year and said it was considering several potential well locations for the future. The company completed two wells - L1-13 and L5-12A - and performed 18 rate-adding workover projects at 17 existing wells in 2016. The company also made its Lisburne Gas Cap Water Injection Project permanent in late January 2017, after the AOGCC approved the continuation of the pilot project.
BP plans to drill the NK-15A injection well at the Raven field to target the South Fault Block at the field, at which point the existing NK-65A well would be converted to a producer from the Sag River formation “to recover remaining resource in that area.”
The company drilled the NK-38B sidetrack of the existing NK-38A sidetrack into an unswept portion of the Ivishak reservoir at Raven in 2016 and returned the NK-65A well to injection. The company drilled the NK-14B development well in March 2017, during the previous development year, to delineate the outer boundaries of the Raven oil pool.
BP made no firm drilling commitments at the Niakuk field for the current year, although the company said potential drilling targets are “continually being evaluated.” The company performed non-rig workover projects on the NK-42 and NK-09 wells in 2016.
BP also made no firm drilling commitments at the Point McIntyre field for the current year, but it expects improved production and operations from the largest field in the area after restoring the suspended Point McIntyre pipeline into Gathering Center 1 last year.
BP said that the results of the North Prudhoe seismic survey, and other technical assessments, could improve ongoing studies at North Prudhoe Bay and West Beach.
Western SatellitesAfter a year of strong production growth in 2016, the five fields that make up the Western Satellites at the Prudhoe Bay unit all experienced declines this past year.
Aurora produced 4,696 barrels of oil per day in the year ending June 2017, down from 6,303 bpd the year before and up from 4,305 bpd during the 2014-15 reporting year.
BP brought the S-113BL1 well online in the second half of 2016 and performed a workover at the S-109 well in the first quarter of this year. The company also performed 42 workover operations at Aurora during the reporting year - only four added production.