Welcome to The Explorers annual magazine, which got its start as The Independents in 2002.
We changed the name to The Explorers in 2004 because it was evident, as oil prices began to rise, that there were two sets of companies coming to Alaska: the small independents focused on the mature areas of the North Slope and Cook Inlet basin, and the large independents and majors in the less explored parts of both — and in areas not yet developed, such as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and the North Aleutian, Nenana and Copper River basins.
But it wasn’t a clear division between independents and majors. Some small independents are paving the way in undeveloped areas.
What’s particularly exciting this year is Anadarko Petroleum will be drilling for natural gas on the North Slope, betting that a gas pipeline will be built to Outside markets.
The other big news is several small independents will be drilling exploration wells on the North Slope, and between them and big independent Anadarko Petroleum, will likely drill the majority of the exploration wells in northern Alaska in the 2007-08 exploration season.
And Chevron, a Cook Inlet producer, will be drilling several North Slope wells this year.
Last year I said that 2007 would see the beginning of serious exploration in federal waters off the North Slope, with Shell drilling in the open water season at its Beaufort Sea Sivulliq (Hammerhead) prospect.
But legal action by the North Slope Borough, whalers, and several anti-development groups has held up drilling for at least a year.
What was particularly interesting about Shell picking up OCS leases was that it had purchased tracts well to the north of traditional North Slope exploration oil plays, which tend to be on a structural high called the Barrow Arch.
The Arch runs, more or less, along the Beaufort coast. Fields like Prudhoe Bay and Endicott lie on the Arch in a rock sequence known as the Ellesmerian. Other fields like Kuparuk and Alpine lie in a sequence known as the Beaufortian. The Ellesmerian sequence consists of strata ranging in age from Devonian to Jurassic, while the Beaufortian sequence ranges from Jurassic to early Cretaceous.
Former state Division of Oil and Gas Director Ken Boyd thinks federal waters north of the Arch in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas present the best potential for major new oil finds in Alaska.
With promising geology but very sparse well data, exploring north of the Arch involves significant risk but major potential. It’s all a voyage into the unknown.
As Boyd says, “the offshore is as unknown as the onshore 20 years ago.”