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Vol. 16, No. 4 Week of January 23, 2011
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Ice road supports NordAq’s Kenai Peninsula gas exploration

Showing plenty of ingenuity, NordAq Energy Inc. is laying down an ice road to reach an exploratory drilling prospect inside Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Roads made of ice are commonplace on top of the state in the North Slope oil patch.

But to see an ice road take shape on the Kenai Peninsula, in the state’s Southcentral region, is not as common.

NordAq contractor Peak Oilfield Service Co. is building the ice road and a one-acre ice pad to support a rig to be moved in soon to drill the Shadura natural gas prospect.

The prospect is northeast of the Nikiski community and west of the Swanson River oil and gas unit.

The ice road begins at the Captain Cook State Recreation Area and will extend almost three miles to the drill site. While the site is on refuge land, Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native corporation, owns the subsurface estate and will receive royalties if any gas is found and produced.

Fake snow, cannery ice

The idea of an ice road is to avoid construction of a permanent road with gravel fill. Ice roads are especially advantageous for exploratory drilling, as they simply melt away with minimal damage to the tundra once a project is done.

Claire Caldes, oil and gas liaison for the Kenai refuge, told Petroleum News on Jan. 18 that a streak of cold temperatures had helped with constructing the ice road. Otherwise, it could have been an iffy undertaking so far south, she said.

“We didn’t require an ice road,” Caldes said. Rather, NordAq offered to build one.

The road route follows wetlands, winding around timber islands so as to avoid tree clearing, Caldes said.

Only about half the ice road is on the refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Regulations require the Kenai refuge to grant reasonable access to owners of in-holdings for economic purposes. The refuge long has harbored oil and gas units, including Swanson River and Beaver Creek.

NordAq and its contractors have shown lots of resourcefulness in building the ice road, which uses a mixture of fresh water, ice chips and snow.

Peak rented three snowmakers from the Alyeska ski resort, and ice is being trucked in from local salmon processing plants, said Caldes and CIRI spokesman Jim Jager.

Using the snowmakers was “an experiment that apparently worked and Peak’s team is looking into ways to use the snow guns on the North Slope,” Jager said.

CIRI is part owner of Peak.

Who is NordAq?

According to the company’s website, NordAq is “specializing in the Cook Inlet basin.” The site lists three contact locations: Anchorage, Kenai and Surrey, England.

State records show NordAq Energy Inc. was created in February 2009. Hugh North, of England, is listed as 100 owner of the company.

NordAq’s president, Bob Warthen, has 42 years of Cook Inlet exploration and operation experience, including 25 years with Unocal in senior management, the NordAq website says.

Warthen could not be reached for comment. A NordAq spokesperson said the company preferred not to talk about its drilling plans for now.

An environmental assessment prepared for the Shadura project says NordAq aims to begin drilling by early February, then test for natural gas and either suspend or plug and abandon the well. All equipment will be demobilized by mid-March.

NordAq and its contractors, Inlet Drilling Alaska Inc. and All American Oilfield Associates, intend to use Marathon’s Glacier 1 rig.

—Wesley Loy



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