July 31, 2002 --- Vol. 8, No. 79July 2002

SDC at McCovey; will be cold-stacked by Aug. 15

The SDC — short for steel drilling caisson — that will be used to drill the McCovey prospect later this year has been was readied for drilling and towed to the EnCana Corp.’s drilling location in the Beaufort Sea, Soren Christiansen, the company’s drilling manager, told PNA July 30.

The SDC, built for the Arctic by Canadian Marine Ltd. in 1982 using an old tanker as a shell, was towed 600 miles from Port Clarence by two class 4 ice breakers. The tow, expected to take 15 days, took 12 days and was completed early on the morning of July 26, Christiansen said.

Fairweather, which is handling operations for EnCana at McCovey, was in charge of the tow. Air Logistics supplied helicopter support.

Crowley is supplying the drill ship in preparation for winter drilling.

The SDC will be cold-stacked by Aug. 15 until the bowhead whaling season is closed in late October.

Drilling operations will probably begin “sometime in November … when the ice has reached a designated thickness,” EnCana officials said.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service approved the McCovey exploration unit plan Feb. 28. The McCovey unit includes three federal and four state of Alaska leases in the central Beaufort Sea about five miles northeast of Reindeer Island and 12 miles east of the Northstar field.

EnCana said in its exploration plan that a single exploration well, the McCovey No. 1, will be drilled from a surface location in federal OCS lease block Y-1577 to a bottom hole location to the northwest in OCS lease block Y-1578.

The company said additional exploration or delineation drilling may be considered during the 2002-2003 drilling season, depending on the outcome of the No. 1 well.

Phillips Alaska Inc. and Chevron are partners in the EnCana-operated unit.

BLM confirms original 45-day review period for right of way renewal

The Bureau of Land Management today confirmed the original 45-day schedule for review of the draft environmental impact statement on renewing the right of way for the trans-Alaska pipeline system. BLM said that a number of environmental and Alaska Native groups had requested that the comment period be extended.

In announcing the decision to maintain the original review schedule, which ends Aug. 20, BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said, “I acknowledge that the DEIS is a lengthy document and that the public has a keen interest in the safe operation of the TAPS and renewal of the right of way. However, an extension of the comment period is unnecessary for a right of way renewal situation where the existing system has been in place and fully operational for 25 years. This is not a new construction project with alternate routes and major new impacts.”

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