With four companies having spud eight penetrations, the winter exploration season is under way, but some companies have scaled back or delayed their plans for the season.
Altogether, those four companies should drill 10 or 11 penetrations this winter.
The well count is be at the low end of the early estimate Petroleum News made in October, when permitting documents suggested that five companies could drill between 12 and 22 wells, but above the seven exploration wells companies drilled last winter.
As of March 20, Repsol E&P USA Inc. had spud three wells and two sidetracks at its Qugruk prospect between the Oooguruk and Colville River units, ConocoPhillips had spud one well in its Bear Tooth unit in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, Linc Energy LLC had spud one well at the Umiat prospect farther south in the NPR-A and Pioneer Natural Resources had drilled the Nuna No. 2 well at the Nuna development of its Oooguruk unit and is currently conducting hydraulic fracturing operations on the well.
Those companies plan to drill as many as three additional penetrations among them.
But Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. and UltraStar Exploration LLC have deferred exploration work for this season, and Linc is also pushing off some work until 2014.
Repsol most activeRepsol is currently drilling at three pads across its Qugruk prospect.
At Qugruk No. 1, Repsol has drilled a vertical section to 7,050 feet measured depth, and is currently drilling a horizontal lateral. At Qugruk No. 6, Repsol has drilled a vertical section to 7,809 feet measured depth and is currently drilling the horizontal section.
The company plans to complete, stimulate and flow test both wells.
At Qugruk No. 3, Repsol is currently coring at a measured depth of 6,925 feet. The company plans to continue to its target depth and drill a sidetrack, as with the other wells.
Conoco drills CassinIn the NPR-A, ConocoPhillips spud the Cassin No. 1 well earlier in March.
The well is in the Bear Tooth unit, the second of two federal units ConocoPhillips operates in the NPR-A. The well is in the middle of the unit, on lease AA081754, which is part of Unit Area A, a subset of the unit designated for initial work commitments.
The 2009 Bear Tooth unit agreement required ConocoPhillips to drill a well in Unit Area A and to test a previous well it drilled in the unit — Scout No. 1 — by June 1, 2012, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management subsequently extended the deadline by one year.
Last year, ConocoPhillips staked nine potential well locations in the NPR-A, two in its Mooses Tooth unit and seven in the Bear Tooth unit (five wells and two sidetracks), and eventually permitted two locations: Cassin No. 1 and the as-yet-undrilled Cassin No. 6.
ConocoPhillips has received both a BLM and AOGCC permit for Cassin No. 6.
Cassin No. 1 is ConocoPhillips’ first well in the NPR-A since 2009.
Linc spuds, defersIn early March, Linc spud Umiat No. 18, the first well at the Umiat oil field since 1979, but a string of weather delays forced the company to defer some work until next year.
The Australian independent originally planned a four-to-six well program at Umiat for this winter, but after light snowfall early in the season combined with extreme cold snaps, the company is now planning to drill just two wells this winter and cold-stack its rig on location to get a head start on mobilization for the 2013-14 winter exploration season.
Linc is currently drilling Umiat No. 18 vertically into the Lower Grandstand formation to collect core samples and plans to continue below the Lower Grandstand “to assess the deeper resource potential,” according to the company. After reaching its target depth, Linc plans to plug the well back to the Lower Grandstand to conduct a flow test.
Later in the season, Linc plans to drill the Umiat No. 23H well directionally into the same Lower Grandstand interval to provide “comparative flow testing” for economic purposes.
Among the wells being deferred until 2014 is the Umiat DSP No. 1 Class II disposal well.
UltraStar seeking extensionUltraStar Exploration LLC is deferring its North Dewline No. 1 well.
The Alaska-based independent originally hoped to drill the well last year, but delayed the project because of rig availability. Earlier this season, UltraStar Managing Member Jim Weeks told Petroleum News he was still chasing leads for investors to fund the project.
UltraStar drilled Dewline No. 1 at the unit in 2009. Under the existing five-year plan of exploration for the Dewline unit, UltraStar must drill a second well by May 31, 2013.
In November, UltraStar asked for an extension to that deadline, but the Division of Oil and Gas denied the request, Weeks told Petroleum News March 15. UltraStar appealed the decision to the Department of Natural Resources and is awaiting a response, he said.
Brooks Range developingBrooks Range Petroleum Corp. is well under way on its infrastructure work at its Mustang development prospect, but will defer exploration at two other prospects until 2014.
The operating arm of the Alaska Venture Capital Group recently completed an ice road from the Kuparuk River unit 2M pad to the Mustang development and is currently mining and moving gravel for the purpose of building an all-season road and a drilling pad.
The company expects to complete the infrastructure this year, complete facilities installation early next year and bring the Mustang field into production by late in the third quarter of 2014, BRPC Chief Operating Officer Bart Armfield told Petroleum News.
At the Tofkat unit, along a bend in the Colville River near Nuiqsut, Brooks Range Petroleum “continues to work with area stakeholders to obtain the required permitting for drilling” and expects to drill a well and potentially a sidetrack next winter, Armfield said.
At the Kachemach unit, the company “continues to re-process and merge acquired seismic data to identify optimal drilling location and target” and plans to drill an exploration well next winter, after discussing the project with working interest owners.