Jim Tautfest, senior geologist at Anadarko Petroleum Group, went looking for oil and gas prospects on the North Slope in the late 1990s and by 2000, had assembled a portfolio of hopefuls along the northern edge of the Brooks Mountain Range southeast of Prudhoe Bay.
Tautfest and his team had reason to believe that one or more of the prospects would yield substantial quantities of crude oil and perhaps an even bigger bounty of natural gas.
“On a lark, we thought we’d name them after flowers that you find on the North Slope,” he recalled. “So I did a ‘Google’ and came up with some flower names.”
Tautfest winnowed the list and settled on Twin Flower, Twayblade, Yarrow, Larkspur and Jacobs Ladder as names for the prospects.
It wasn’t the first time Tautfest had named oil and gas prospects. Earlier, the University of California Davis-educated geologist earned the privilege of naming a prospect on the Texas Gulf Coast. Tautfest said he called it “Dowdy Ranch” after the ranch where it was located.
While some of the North Slope flower names he chose for the Alaska prospects may be familiar, Jacobs Ladder is less well known. The flower for which the prospect is named is a tiny, vibrant blue wonder, evidence of Mother Nature’s ability to defy the harsh constraints of the high arctic tundra to create beauty. Its scientific name is Polemonium boreale (Boreal Jacobs-ladder).
The whole plant is pubescent, which means it is covered with a soft down of long woolly hairs. It grows 1 1/2 - 3 inches tall, and has basal leaves that are more or less alternate, and pinnate, with numerous leaflets. The flowers are bell-shaped, and the plant has a very unpleasant smell. It grows on gravelly slopes and in crevices.
Tautfest said Jacobs Ladder seemed especially appropriate because the geological structure of the prospect has a “ladder-like appearance.”
Prospect drawing attentionHalf a decade after the christening, Jacobs Ladder is drawing considerable attention. Located 10 miles southeast of the giant Prudhoe Bay field, it is considered an oil prospect in the Wahoo formation of the Lisburne group, with a potential reservoir in eroded cavities in Lisburne carbonate rocks. The play is said to resemble the huge Yates field in Texas.
“The others have fallen off the radar screen a little, but Jacobs Ladder was deemed to be of enough interest to explore. Anadarko has found partners and is planning to drill a well in the prospect this winter,” Tautfest said in a recent telephone interview.
In October 2005, the State of Alaska approved the formation of the Jacobs Ladder unit, which includes the Lisburne structure in the Ivishak formation of the Sadlerochit, rocks equivalent to the reservoir of Prudhoe Bay.
The state Division of Oil and Gas said its geologists believe the Lisburne (Wahoo formation) structure in Jacobs Ladder could yield a range of 20 million to 660 million barrels of oil equivalent and the Sadlerochit (Ivishak formation) structure could yield a range of 50 million to 800 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Because the unit is located off the North Slope road system, Anadarko sought partners to help defray the expense of exploring Jacobs Ladder. It secured Artic Slope Regional Corp. and then London-based BG Group as joint venture partners.
Anadarko also committed to drill an exploration well by June 1, 2007, or pay a lease delay payment of just over $1 million and lose the leases.