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Vol. 12, No. 14 Week of April 08, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

PETROLEUM DIRECTORY: What’s cooking in the ‘kitchens?’

Two offshore Cook Inlet prospects that Escopeta Oil plans to explore laid groundwork for their unusual names millions of years ago

Rose Ragsdale

For Petroleum News

In exploring Cook Inlet, Escopeta Oil geologists gained their inspiration for naming two offshore oil and gas prospects that they hope to explore this year.

The prospects, Kitchen and East Kitchen, are the logical names to reflect the prehistoric drama they believe unfolded deep within the earth eons ago. But the only dishes that Houston, Texas-based Escopeta says these “kitchens” will serve up are copious quantities of high-gravity crude oil and natural gas.

Geologist Walter Wells joined Escopeta President Danny Davis and the company’s former Alaska exploration executive Bob Warthen years ago in drafting the unusual names for the prospects.

The inspiration came from an underlying theory that led to their discovery — that they contain the source rock for many of Cook Inlet’s known oil fields.

“The prospects sit on an area where the oil is generated, in the central Cook Inlet Basin,” said Davis in a recent interview. “That’s where you cook everything up, in the kitchen isn’t it?”

Davis said Escopeta’s concept for the two prospects grew out of analysis of exploration and research done more than a quarter of century ago by the U.S. Geological Survey and Atlantic Richfield Co.

“It’s not something we made up. It’s something we got educated to,” Davis said. “It’s a published fact that the oil recovered, so far, in Cook Inlet is 4 percent of the total there. That means there’s 96 percent of the oil left to find.”

USGS work intrigued Escopeta

The Escopeta team became intrigued by work done by USGS scientists Leslie B. Magoon and George E. Claypool.

Magoon and Claypool published a research paper in 1981 titled, “Petroleum Geology of the Cook Inlet — An Exploration Model,” that reflected their theories.

ARCO also explored the area and concluded that oil likely was generated at a greater depth and migrated into more recent structures, including some that have been developed into oil and gas fields. These include the Middle Ground Shoals, Granite Point, North Cook Inlet McArthur River and Swanson River fields.

“We believe Kitchen kept cooking oil for a long time, millions of years,” said Frank Banar, a geologist who works with Escopeta as a consultant today.

Escopeta’s geologists also believe the oil and gas they’ve identified sits on top of a structure that ARCO and Shell explored more than 20 years ago, said Banar, who also explored Cook Inlet in the 1980s on behalf of Mobil Oil Corp.

North Slope lured companies away

The discovery of Prudhoe Bay in 1968 lured away to the North Slope most of the companies that were busy hunting for oil finds in Cook Inlet nearly 40 years ago.

Only recently has the industry renewed its interest in the basin.

The relative lack of exploration activity in Cook Inlet piqued Escopeta’s interest, and it wasn’t long before company’s geologists announced several promising prospects.

The Kitchen prospect, an enormous feature covering 12,000 to 15,000 acres, is believed to lie at the 2,500-foot depth of the Sterling formation and the 16,500-foot depth of the Hemlock formation, according to Davis. Nearby, the East Kitchen, spread across 9,000 acres, is thought to be situated at 3,500 feet in the Beluga formation and 15,000 feet in the Hemlock.

Banar said the prospects are situated in the thickest part of the basin. “That means (they) contain enough thickness to put enough pressure on the Mesozoic layer of the earth to get the shale rocks at that depth hot enough to ‘cook up’ the oil,” Banar said. “It’s where the rocks got hot enough to cook the oil out.”

Escopeta believes Kitchen and East Kitchen each could hold more than 500 million barrels of oil and about 1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

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