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Vol. 16, No. 40 Week of October 02, 2011
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Escopeta runs into problems drilling upper Cook Inlet well

Although Escopeta Oil Co. should soon be back on track with drilling its first well in Alaska’s upper Cook Inlet, the company has been stuck at 1,805 feet for close to two weeks.

The Texas-based independent began drilling the Kitchen Lights Unit No. 1 well on Sept. 2, using the Spartan 151 jack-up rig.

About 10 miles north of Nikiski in the Corsair prospect, KLU No. 1 is one of five wells in Escopeta’s multiyear oil and gas exploration program in the offshore Kitchen Lights unit, which also includes the East Kitchen, Kitchen and Northern Lights oil and gas prospects.

By the morning of Sept. 7, the Spartan 151 had drilled a narrow, 12 and 1/2-inch, hole down to 1,800 feet, and had already begun to re-drill the hole, widening it to 26 inches for 20-inch casing.

The smaller diameter hole was drilled as a safety precaution, to make sure there were no unexpected pockets of natural gas in the well bore, Escopeta said.

Drillers had reached 1,080 feet with the larger hole by the morning of Sept. 8.

Shortly thereafter they ran into trouble.

It was over “a busted clip on an O-ring,” Escopeta President Ed Oliver told Petroleum News Sept. 29.

“We had a malfunction on a downhole tool. … We had the best contractor in the world on these downhole tools. … But it can happen. And every time we started to do something, something else went wrong, like the parts had to come out of Houston — that cost us three days. And then a contractor didn’t work on weekends. Then a warehouse misplaced something; that cost us another three days. What started out as a routine problem, took 10 or 12 days to fix,” Oliver said.

“If Murphy was alive and well he would have been on this well.”

The mud log report of Sept. 27 showed the well depth at 1,805 feet true vertical depth, with the 20-inch casing also set at that depth.

It appeared that with the casing on bottom and presumably cemented in place, rig workers were pre-heating the casing in order to weld the new wellhead onto it.

Once that was complete, a PN source said they will “nipple up or assemble the blowout preventer on the well head and run a test.”

Oliver confirmed that.

“We’re waiting for the cement to dry on the casing,” he said, predicting drilling would begin again in “four or five more days.”

Likely make 4,800 feet this year

The well’s ultimate depth will be about 16,000 feet, which will take it down to the pre-tertiary zone, stratigraphically equivalent to the Jurassic interval.

Escopeta initially planned to stop drilling at 4,800 feet for another inspection from state regulators, a point where the well casing was to be changed to 13 and 3/8 inches.

One of the factors in the state’s evaluation will be the weather and ice formation in the upper Cook Inlet.

“At this point we feel comfortable about going down to 4,800 feet,” Oliver said.

“We’ve been in regular communication with AOGCC and DNR. We’re not going to jeopardize (the operation) by pushing safety issues. … We’re all comfortable not making full depth this year.”

Is Oliver concerned the Alaska Department of Natural Resources will take back Escopeta’s leases because of not making a unit deadline of Oct. 31 to reach the Jurassic?

“That’s sort of a loaded question. … I am not overly concerned. In fact I hadn’t thought about it … until you raised the question,” he said, referring to his firm’s ongoing communications about the well with state officials.

“I think we’ll work something out. Right now we’re just trying to do what we’re up there to do, and that’s drill this well.”

—Kay Cashman

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