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Vol. 13, No. 40 Week of October 05, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Two in ‘09 in reserve

ConocoPhillips plans return to NPR-A this year to expand on discoveries

Eric Lidji

Petroleum News

ConocoPhillips expects to return to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska this winter, with plans shaping up for two wells in a federal exploration unit created earlier this year.

ConocoPhillips will use both wells to look for new hydrocarbon accumulations to expand on previous discoveries made at Mooses Tooth in earlier exploration efforts.

Grandview East and Pioneer 1 are currently in the proposal stage, awaiting partner approval and the finalized companywide budget, typically released each December.

“We do not yet have final partner approval or even our own [Authorization for Expenditure] approval,” Michael Faust, offshore exploration manager for ConocoPhillips told Petroleum News Sept. 26.

Should plans proceed, ConocoPhillips would build “an ice road that basically extends all the way to Grandview and then a spur off that ice road down to Pioneer,” Faust said.

The company staked the well locations this summer and is currently filing for permits.

Between 2001 and 2002, ConocoPhillips staked a Pioneer well and two Grandview wells in what is now the Mooses Tooth unit. The Pioneer 1 location sits in the southeastern corner of the unit, while the two previously staked Grandview locations are near the western boundary of the unit.

Faust said ConocoPhillips expects to drill both wells using Doyon rig 141.

The Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, oversees resource development and exploration within the NPR-A.

Honing in on Mooses Tooth

For the past decade, ConocoPhillips has been the most active explorer in the NPR-A, permitting dozens of exploration wells and drilling no less than 18 penetrations as of March.

Those exploration programs have had varying degrees of success.

Following an unsuccessful venture into more remote corners of the reserve in early 2007, the oil company moved closer to existing infrastructure last winter, drilling the Char No. 1 well in the Colville River unit, as well as drilling the Spark DD-9 well and re-entering and testing the Rendezvous No. 2, both within the Mooses Tooth unit.

The results of those wells were supposed to determine how ConocoPhillips would proceed with exploration work this winter, Erec Isaacson, vice president of land and exploration for ConocoPhillips Alaska, told Petroleum News Feb. 11.

Faust couldn’t give specifics on the results from last season, but said they will guide the work this winter.

“At this point we don’t yet have partner approval to release the results of the wells, but I think it’s safe to say we’re encouraged enough to come back out and drill a couple of additional wells,” Faust said.

A “stepwise logical manner”

Mooses Tooth, the first unit approved by the BLM in NPR-A, grew out of discoveries made by unit operator ConocoPhillips through its predecessor companies and Anadarko Petroleum, which holds a minority interest in the unit.

With as many as five possible participating areas at Mooses Tooth, the unit could contain as many as five separate reservoirs.

Lookout, one of those possible participating areas, is a proven oil discovery in the northeastern corner of the unit, Isaacson told Petroleum News back in February.

Isaacson said the short-term goal for Mooses Tooth is oil production from both Lookout and the Spark and Rendezvous prospects in the center of the unit, with gas production taking over in the longer term if a pipeline is eventually built to take it to market.

Those five participating areas are still a “possibility,” according to Faust.

“Whether its all one big feature, or more than one feature, is in many reasons why we want to go out and drill more wells,” Faust said.

ConocoPhillips is currently projecting to bring petroleum production from Mooses Tooth online sometime after 2013, and will most likely process any fluids from the unit at existing Alpine facilities.

As a result, any initial production or future expansion of NPR-A would have to be timed to match the expansion capabilities within Alpine field itself, Faust said.

“It’s safe to say you wouldn’t go out there and develop five things at once,” he said. “You’d work on it in a more stepwise logical manner.”

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