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Vol. 15, No. 47 Week of November 21, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Oil Patch Insider: Moraine? Torok? What’s going on?

A friend of Petroleum News called recently to get some clarification. Why, he wanted to know, did our articles refer to the newest prospect at the Oooguruk unit as the “Moraine horizon” when the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission used the term “Torok” to describe an Oooguruk oil pool at the same depth and producing at the same rate?

In other words: Are Moraine and Torok the same thing or not?

After an embarrassed shrug, we e-mailed Pioneer Natural Resources, the operator of the nearshore North Slope unit, to ask if Moraine and Torok were, in fact, one and the same.

“Moraine and Torok are indeed the same thing,” Tadd Owens, Alaska spokesman for Pioneer replied. “Moraine is the prospect name and Torok is the name of the geologic formation. Conversationally, we have used the two terms interchangeably.”

When Pioneer began developing the Oooguruk unit, the company described two distinct oil pools: the Kuparuk and the deeper and larger Nuiqsut. Earlier this year, though, Pioneer executives began discussing Moraine in earnings calls.

“Moraine is a large stratigraphic trap of thinly laminated sands that sit some thousand feet above, let’s say, the Kuparuk reservoir. They’re about 200 feet thick,” Tim Dove, president and chief operating officer of Pioneer, said in a conference call on May 5.

With the success of the first Moraine well, drilled this year, Pioneer is planning additional tests at the prospect in the first quarter of 2011, the company said in early November.

The name Torok might be familiar to those who have followed Pioneer for a while.

Pioneer discussed a Cretaceous Torok interval in early exploration efforts at Oooguruk.

The Torok formation also played a role in other Pioneer projects.

In May 2006, Pioneer announced an oil discovery from a Cretaceous-age Torok sand sequence with the Cronus No. 1 well, southwest of the Kuparuk River unit in the central North Slope. Although the sequence proved to be similar to the reservoir in the nearby Meltwater field, Pioneer decided the oil-bearing zones were “too tight to produce.”

That’s clearly not a problem with the Torok formation at Oooguruk, which produced nearly 16,000 barrels of oil in September, according to AOGCC records.

—Eric Lidji



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