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Vol. 12, No. 4 Week of January 28, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Noble plans fast-track development

Raton startup expected in 2008 from subsea development of natural gas interval, Pony sidetrack recovers record drilling core

Ray Tyson

For Petroleum News

Exploration and production independent Noble Energy is currently planning a fast-track subsea development of a natural gas interval discovered at the company’s Raton prospect on Mississippi Canyon block 292 in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, with first production from the zone expected during the first half of 2008, the company said.

Meanwhile, a sidetrack off the Hess-operated Pony discovery well on Green Canyon Block 468 — also in the deepwater U.S. Gulf — encountered 280 feet of oil saturated sandstone in Miocene age reservoirs after penetrating 60 percent of its geological objective. Hess said drilling was halted due to “mechanical reasons” after successfully recovering 450 feet of conventional core, the most ever recovered in the U.S. Gulf, Hess said.

Noble Energy, in addition to its fast-track-to-production from one of Raton’s horizons, also reported Jan. 16 that initial results from the first Raton appraisal well on Mississippi Canyon Block 292 encountered hydrocarbons “in the anticipated sand intervals” and was temporarily abandoned.

“Additional technical work is needed to evaluate future options,” the company said. The appraisal well is in 3,400 feet of water and reached a total measured depth of 20,913 feet, Noble Energy said.

The Raton appraisal well was drilled to evaluate a deep section below the Raton gas discovery on Mississippi Canyon 248 announced in June 2006. Noble holds a 50 percent interest in the Raton project. Partners Samson Offshore and Energy Partners Ltd. each hold a 25 percent stake in the project.

Raton just five miles from Redrock

The Raton discovery well, drilled to a total measured depth of 20,106 feet, encountered 90 feet of hydrocarbon pay over three zones. While not a large amount of pay by U.S. Gulf standards, Raton happens to be just five miles from another Noble-Samson-EPL discovery, Redrock.

Noble and its partners have said little publicly about estimated reserves at Raton and Redrock. However, Noble and EPL disclosed in separate statements last year that appraisal drilling would be used to formulate a single development plan for both discoveries, indicating Raton and Redrock are strong candidates for a joint field development.

“The results of the initial well at Raton are encouraging, particularly in light of the proximity of the well to our Redrock discovery,” said Dave Stover, Noble’s senior vice president for North America.

Redrock is on Mississippi Canyon block 204 and was drilled to a measured depth of 23,365 feet in 3,334 feet of water.

The Noble-led joint venture has managed to piece together an impressive acreage position consisting of eight contiguous federal leases in Mississippi Canyon, a resource-rich area of the Central Gulf of Mexico dominated by major oil companies and large E&P independents.

Interestingly, the partners did not disclose their initial Redrock discovery until after the March 2006 Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale, in an apparent effort to minimize bidding competition on exploration blocks close to the Redrock prospect, including Raton. Later the partners reported that the Redrock well encountered one target with “high quality pay” and that a second objective was identified, “the quality and extent of which is currently under evaluation.”

As it turned out, the Noble-Samson-EPL alliance got its property at a bargain price, submitting the only bids on two Mississippi Canyon blocks adjoining the Redrock discovery, with combined high bids of less than $1 million. The trio doled out single winning bids of just $411,840 for Mississippi Canyon block 160 on Redrock’s northern flank, and $475,200 for Mississippi Canyon block 203 on Redrock’s western flank.

Thus far, the alliance has identified some 11 prospects on deepwater acreage held jointly by the three companies. “Noble has assembled a high quality portfolio of deepwater prospects,” said David Adams, Samson’s executive vice president of exploration. “Given Noble’s experienced and highly talented employees, we are confident this partnership will be profitable and rewarding.”

Pony sidetrack sets core record

Hess’ Pony sidetrack well, drilled to roughly 2,700 feet northeast of the discovery well to a depth of 30,634 feet, established a record for the deepest conventional drilling core ever recovered in the Gulf of Mexico, Hess said Jan. 4. Casing was set across the oil-bearing interval to allow for future production from the well, the company added.

The oil-bearing section in the Pony sidetrack well is similar in thickness and quality to the equivalent interval in the discovery well, which was drilled to 32,448 feet and encountered 475 feet of oil saturated sandstone, Hess said. “Results to date have been consistent with pre-drill expectations.”

Total hydrocarbon resource on the Hess acreage is estimated to be in the range of 100 million to 600 million barrels of oil equivalent. Hess holds a 100 percent working interest in the Pony prospect.

Hess said it would next drill an appraisal well with the Ocean Baroness rig at the Pony No. 2 location about 7,400 feet northwest of the discovery well.

In May 2006, Hess announced preliminary drilling results for the Pony prospect based on information collected down to the 29,658-foot level. The company said then additional objective sections were still to be tested.

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