With the exception of the Colville River unit, North Slope development drilling remained down across the board during the third quarter, as it has for much of the year to date.
The operators of the six largest North Slope units - Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River, Colville River, Milne Point, Oooguruk and Nikaitchuq - drilled 26 development wells between July and September, down from 35 in 2015 and 33 in 2014, according to completion reports compiled by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Although the overall trend points to a large decline in development drilling from 2015, activity at the two largest units this year has been similar to 2014 levels. By comparison, Alaska North Slope crude oil traded between $96 and $108 per barrel through the first nine months of 2014, compared to $30 to $44 per barrel during the same period this year.
Well counts represent administrative filings published through October 2016. AOGCC completion reports occasionally lag behind actual drilling and are often revised. With future revisions, these figures could end up being higher but are unlikely to be lower.
Except when mentioned, references to “wells” includes laterals and sidetracks but not workover activities to repair aging or damaged wells. The well totals included here count both production wells and injection or “service” wells, but not exploration wells.
Prudhoe, Kuparuk, ColvilleThe Prudhoe Bay unit continues to see a strong downward trend.
BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. drilled eight development wells at the unit during the third quarter, compared to 14 wells during the third quarters of both 2015 and 2014. The company drilled 34 wells at the unit through the first nine months of this year, compared to 60 wells during the same period of 2015. The year-to-date totals for this year compare more favorably to the 37 wells that the company drilled in the first nine months of 2014.
Although small, the drilling program during the third quarter was diverse, including one well at the Lisburne field and one well at the Raven field. The company last drilled a Lisburne well in July 2015 and hasn’t drilled a Raven well in more than a decade.
The Kuparuk River unit followed a similar trend, with higher totals. ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. drilled 14 development wells at the unit during the third quarter, compared to 17 wells and 18 wells during the third quarters of 2015 and 2014, respectively. The company drilled 44 wells at the unit in the first nine months of this year, down from 55 wells in the same period of last year and even with 44 wells in the same period of 2014.
The drilling activity at Kuparuk during the third quarter of the year included three wells at the new Drill Site 2S (KRU No. 2S-06, KRU No. 2S-12 and KRU No. 2S-14), three wells with a total of four laterals at Drill Site 1L and a quad-lateral well at Drill Site 3F.
With development of the new CD-5 pad, drilling increased at the Colville River unit.
ConocoPhillips drilled three development wells at the unit in the third quarter, up from two in the third quarter of 2015 and one in the third quarter of 2014. The company drilled 11 wells in the first nine months of the year, up from seven in 2015 and five in 2014.
All the drilling activity in the third quarter of this year was injection wells, which has been a focus for much of the year. The company drilled its first lateral at the CD-5 pad.
Milne, Oooguruk, NikaitchuqActivity was negligible at the three smaller units.
Hilcorp Alaska LLC drilled one well at the Milne Point unit during the third quarter of 2016, down from two last year and up from none when BP operated the unit in 2014.
Hilcorp drilled eight development wells at the unit in the first nine months of this year, up from two in 2015 and down from 11 that BP drilled during the first nine months of 2014.
Caelus Natural Resources Alaska LLC and Eni US Operating Co. Inc. both suspended development drilling earlier this year and neither drilled during the third quarter. Caelus operates the offshore Oooguruk unit, and Eni operates the neighboring Nikaitchuq unit.