September 28, 2012 --- Vol. 18, No. 76September 2012

EPA approves modifications to Kulluk air permit

The Environmental Protection Agency today approved some modifications to the air quality permit for the Kulluk, the floating drilling platform that Shell plans to use for drilling in the Alaska Beaufort Sea. Shell applied for the permit modifications in mid-July, after conducting tests of the Kulluk’s engines. This year the company completed a multi-million dollar upgrade to the vessel’s emissions’ systems, to meet new stringent air quality standards.

The permit modifications are minor in nature and allow, for example, a change to the type of particulate filters used for engine exhaust and changing the specification for incinerator emissions.

And, because the permit remains a minor source permit, rather than a major permit, the permit changes can be made without a public comment period.

The Kulluk is currently in a holding position in the Beaufort Sea, waiting for the end of subsistence whale hunting in the area of Shell’s planned drilling before moving into operation. After issues relating to the deployment of its oil containment barge, a part of its oil spill response fleet, Shell will use the Kulluk to drill some top-hole sections of Beaufort Sea wells this year, rather than drilling wells into hydrocarbon bearing zones.

—Alan Bailey

Great Bear applies to extend testing

Great Bear has applied to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas, to amend its plan of operations to extend a proposed production flow test from 15 days to up to 180 days and to drill an additional well at the Alcor pad.

Great Bear told the division that after further review and analysis of testing in analogous plays in the Lower 48, it has concluded that the first 15 days of a production test is expected to consist mostly of water used for hydraulic fracturing. The company said that considering typical production profiles of unconventional wells, the decline curve typically starts to lessen or flatten out during the first six months, providing information the company needs to determine estimated ultimate recovery on a per well basis.

Great Bear has also applied to drill an additional well at the Alcor drill pad. Drilling of the Alcor No. 1 began June 19; drilling of the Merak No. 1 began Aug. 22.

A second well at Alcor is needed so that the Shublik formation can be tested at that location.

Information is available on the division’s website at

—Kristen Nelson

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