Following a brief delay while permits were completed, a U.S. Department of the Interior-led team is now in the Chukchi Sea coast village of Wainwright drilling for coalbed methane.
“Equipment is all in Wainwright and we’ve started drilling on the first well,” Art Clark, U.S. Geological Survey drilling project supervisor and co-project leader, told Petroleum News June 10.
As reported in the June 8 edition of Petroleum News, the team is drilling a delineation well and an array of wells for a production test, following successful results from a 2007 coalbed methane test well in Wainwright.
“There’s enough gas contained within these coal seams (at Wainwright) to warrant the next phase of work. … These coals are fully saturated with gas,” Clark said.
Equipment airliftedThe team airlifted all of the equipment to Wainwright from Prudhoe Bay, including a truck-mounted drilling rig for open-hole drilling.
But muddy ground conditions have resulted in a modification to the original drilling plan. Instead of starting by drilling a delineation well about two miles from the 2007 drill site, the team has decided to begin drilling the wells for the production test. The production test will take place in the vicinity of the 2007 well. The test will likely require four monitoring wells in addition to a production well.
The testing will enable an assessment of how easily gas and water can flow through the coal and will measure the amount of water produced for a given amount of gas. The testing will also involve monitoring pressure changes in the coal during gas production.
The delineation well that the team also plans to drill will run to a depth of 2,500 to 3,000 feet to test the lateral extent of the coal beds discovered in 2007, to look for additional coal beds and to look for a sand body in which to dispose produced water from coalbed methane production. The delineation well will also be used to obtain core from the coal seams, to enable additional testing of the coalbed methane resource.
The team plans to leave its equipment at Wainwright over the winter in preparation for a 2009 program, although no funding has yet been committed for 2009 work, Clark said.
USGS, the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, the North Slope Borough, Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Olgoonik Corp, are all involved in the 2008 program, with the North Slope Borough being the primary funding agency.
Olgoonik is the village corporation for Wainwright.