Hilcorp works CI assets
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Monopod pipe work complete; P&A, drilling at NCI; new MGS pipelines in 2022
Luke Saugier, senior vice president of Hilcorp Alaska, and three of the company’s Cook Inlet managers updated the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council board of directors on the company’s activities in Cook Inlet Sept. 10.
In a general update on the company’s Cook Inlet business, Saugier said the company employs some 150 and Cook Inlet will continue to be an important part of the company’s Alaska business.
Hilcorp began operating in Cook Inlet in 2012, first acquiring assets previously held by Chevron, then Marathon’s gas fields and most recently the North Cook Inlet field from ConocoPhillips.
The company’s efforts are going to focus on delivering natural gas to local markets, Saugier said, particularly from the Steelhead and Tyonek platforms, where Hilcorp will be drilling wells for years to come. He said there are tremendous gas resources that Hilcorp will continue to develop to supply the local market.
Hilcorp is the major Cook Inlet natural gas provider, owning the majority of the fields and operating the fields it owns as well as the Beluga River field, jointly owned with Chugach Electric Association.
As for the ultimate fate of Hilcorp’s Cook Inlet facilities, Saugier said part of the company’s vision is that it is the last owner. He said it is not Hilcorp’s intention to sell to someone further down the food chain.
That’s not going to happen, he said: Hilcorp will be the final owner of the assets.
Plugging the wellsThere are a lot of wells in Cook Inlet that eventually need to be plugged and abandoned, Saugier said, and Hilcorp is going to begin methodically working through that list and plugging and abandoning every year.
He said the company doesn’t want to get to the end of field life with nothing done and will do here what it has done in other areas of the country where it works, which is systematically plug and abandon wells.
With the acquisition of BP’s North Slope assets, the company acquired inhouse expertise on rigless abandonment that BP had used on the Slope, and will bring that technology into Cook Inlet, he said.
Hilcorp intends to extend the life of its Cook Inlet assets as long as possible, particularly the platforms, Saugier said, calling them remarkable from both a historical and technical perspective, and assets which would be very difficult to replace.
As for Cook Inlet drilling, he said the company will be fairly selective in its drilling projects, particularly those targeting oil, with gas projects top tier for the company.
As for the fate of the platforms, the first step when a platform is no longer useful would be to plug the wells and empty the vessels, things which need to happen before a platform could ever be removed, Saugier said, and also work which lowers the risk from the environmental perspective.
Hilcorp’s general intention is to leave the platforms in place in lighthouse mode for quite some time, he said, because a critical mass is needed for platform removal.
The platforms are very stable once the wells have been plugged and vessels emptied and Hilcorp is looking at possible uses for platforms no longer in production, Saugier said. Cook Inlet is ranked fifth in the United States for tidal power and one of the things Hilcorp is looking at whether the platforms could be repurposed for tidal power.
The platforms were built like battleships, he said, in a time before computer modeling when they built stronger than they thought they’d need.
And when facilities need expensive work - such as replacement of the pipeline at Middle Ground Shoal - the company does work through whether to replace the line or move to abandonment, something Hilcorp works through that for all of its assets, Saugier said.
Spartan 151Paul Mazzolini, a drilling engineering advisor for Hilcorp in Alaska, reviewed Spartan 151 operations at North Cook Inlet for the CIRCAC board.
He said work for the jack-up this year involved plugging and abandonment operations and then moving to the Tyonek Platform for drilling.
Hilcorp mobilized the Spartan 151 from the Rig Tenders dock in early June and moved to the 17589-1A well for P&A work.
This well was drilled in 1962 as a relief well for the North Cook Inlet discovery well, Mazzolini said. The discovery well was brought under control and the 17589-1A was then drilled and tested. Basically all the lower zones were abandoned before they got off the well, Mazzolini said, but the surface cement was not put in place for permanent abandonment.
That was the job this summer.
But this was vintage 1960s equipment, and there were no longer any spares or any real information, he said.
Hilcorp mobilized with a team of specialists for subsea work and also had Wild Well Control, specialists in accessing old wells and blowout locations. They bring a different scope of expertise, Mazzolini said.
Once they got onto the well they found that the wellhead didn’t have functional equipment needed and after trying to fix it in Nikiski, Hilcorp sent it to Texas to get help from a wellhead specialist to basically reverse engineer the equipment and retrofit it so it would function for P&A work.
Meanwhile, Mazzolini said, Hilcorp moved the Spartan 151 jack-up to the Tyonek platform, moved the rig onto the platform and began drilling. One well has been successfully drilled and a second is being drilled. Since the equipment in Texas won’t be available until about mid-October, once the second well is completed the company will move on to drill a third well.
The rig will then be moved back onto the jack-up and the Spartan 151 will move back to the P&A location to complete that work. He said they expect to demobilize by mid to late November and move the Spartan 151 back to the Rig Tenders dock.
Monopod oil pipelineTasha Bacher, Hilcorp project engineer for the Monopod oil pipeline replacement, said that project was completed and the pipeline has been restarted.
She said steps in the process included acquiring necessary permits for the project from federal and state agencies.
The 4,100 feet of pipeline was assembled on the beach at Trading Bay in May. It was then pulled from the beach to the Monopod platform, using vessel resources shared with the Spartan 151, Bacher said. Once sections were in place on the seafloor, about 45 days of diving was required to do the tie-ins and once divers completed the work, the cutover into the existing line was done. She said CISPRI (Cook Inlet Spill Prevention & Response Inc.) had a vessel on site during cutover, but there were no sheens reported.
The project also involved observers required by the National Marine Fisheries Service to spot mammals, but no mammals were encountered.
The pipeline was hydrotested at the end of August to ensure all connections were tight and the line was then restarted.
The line was replaced after an anomaly was detected during in-line pipeline inspection of the 8-inch oil pipeline between the Monopod and the Trading Bay Production Facility. In a May approval of Hilcorp’s application for a miscellaneous land use permit for work on state land the Division of Oil and Gas said the section of line to be replaced would be “de-inventoried, and the entire pipeline will be flushed, and appropriately cleaned as part of the replacement activities prior to cutting or disconnecting sub-sea piping” with the replaced section to be abandoned in place.
Bacher said most of the old pipeline was buried.
Middle Ground ShoalDan Polito, Hilcorp’s project manager for the Middle Ground Shoal pipeline replacement, said platforms A and C at MGS have been shut-in since April of this year when a leak was discovered in the fuel line.
The Division of Oil and Gas approved a suspension of operations and production at the MGS unit in June. Hilcorp shut down MGS in April, following discovery of a fuel gas leak; the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is requiring the company to replace the line which runs between Platform A and shore.
Polito said Hilcorp looked at alternatives ranging from lighthousing the platforms to repairing or replacing the gas line. The company, he said, will do a full replacement of the gas line, and will also replace its sister 8-inch oil line. Two 8-inch lines will replace the existing 8-inch lines.
A lay barge will be used rather than pulling the line from shore, the procedure used for the Monopod pipeline replacement, because of the 7-mile length of the pipelines at MGS.
He said Hilcorp is working on planning, engineering and permitting for the work, and plans to mobilize as soon as the ice moves out of the inlet, probably in late May. The pipe lay will take three to four weeks, he said, followed by about two months of pipeline stabilization, tie-ins and commissioning.
Polito said Hilcorp hopes to have the platforms back online about a year from now.