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Vol. 17, No. 40 Week of September 30, 2012
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Apache puts Cook Inlet seismic on hold pending issue of permits

Apache Corp. is pausing its 3-D seismic program in Alaska’s Cook Inlet basin while it waits for some federal permits that it needs, John Hendrix, the company’s general manager in Alaska, told Petroleum News Sept. 26.

“We won’t be shooting seismic after next week until we have permits,” Hendrix said.

Exploring for oil

Apache wants to drill for oil and is conducting a high-resolution 3-D seismic program across wide areas of the basin to identify drilling targets. The company has now completed surveys on the west side of the inlet, and across a 15-mile wide fairway in the northern waters of the inlet, to connect the survey on the west side over to the northern Kenai Peninsula.

The company is using state-of-the-art seismic technology involving the placement of small, independent wireless recording nodes on the ground or on the seafloor, thus avoiding the environmental disturbance associated with the laying of seismic cables.

Apache now wants to conduct a survey up the west side of the southern Kenai Peninsula, recording data offshore the peninsula as well as onshore. But, although the company obtained a National Marine Fisheries Service authorization for the unintended, minor disturbance of marine mammals for the offshore survey that it has already conducted, the Fisheries Service has yet to issue a similar authorization for Apache’s survey to the south.

The Fisheries Service has already published an environmental assessment covering the entire inlet for Apache’s seismic work, Hendrix said.

Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also told Apache that the acoustic recorders that Apache plans to place on the seafloor off the southern Kenai Peninsula constitute a hazard to shipping and will require a permit under the Rivers and Harbors Act, Lisa Parker, Apache Alaska’s manager, government relations, told Petroleum News. But the Corps will not issue that permit until Apache has obtained its Fisheries Service authorization, Parker said.

One environmental concern in the waters of the inlet is the potential impact on Cook Inlet beluga whales, which have been listed under the Endangered Species Act. But Apache’s survey in the northern part of the inlet did not cause a single disturbance to a beluga whale, Hendrix said. For that survey, Apache provided appropriate environmental training for its people, deployed licensed marine mammal observers with listening equipment, and conducted reconnaissance flights before conducting each seismic shoot, Hendrix said. The reconnaissance flights were not required under the terms of Apache’s permits, he said.

Wildlife Refuge

In the northern part of the Kenai Peninsula, Apache wants to extend its seismic coverage east across some Cook Inlet Region Inc. land, as part of an exploration agreement with CIRI, signed in early August. But that land on the peninsula is inside the perimeter of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the administrator of the refuge, requires Apache to obtain a special use permit before the seismic survey can start, Parker said. That permit is contingent on the completion of an environmental assessment which Apache could not begin until after signing the CIRI agreement; completing the assessment and obtaining the permit will likely take until late April, Parker explained.

—Alan Bailey



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