Vol. 26, No.10 Week of March 07, 2021
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Hilcorp plans CI survey

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Applies to BOEM for permit for geohazard surveying in lower Cook Inlet leases

Alan Bailey

for Petroleum News

Hilcorp Alaska has applied to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a permit to conduct geohazard and geotechnical surveys over federal lease blocks in the lower Cook Inlet. According an environmental evaluation associated with the permit application, the surveying would encompass four lease blocks - a map accompanying the application indicates that the lease blocks lie about halfway across the inlet, to the west of Kachemak Bay. Hilcorp has previously indicated that it anticipates drilling two to four exploratory wells in the Lower Cook Inlet. Federal regulations require a geohazard evaluation to be conducted over the entire area within about 1.5 miles of a planned offshore well site, before the start of drilling.

In 2019 Hilcorp conducted a 3D seismic survey in the area of its federal leases: the environmental evaluation says that this survey covered eight of Hilcorp’s lease blocks. In a letter to BOEM accompanying its permit application Hilcorp explained that its new geohazard survey permit application is for “essentially the same program” that BOEM had permitted for 2020 and that Hilcorp had planned to carry out that year. The survey program had been delayed because of COVID-19, Hilcorp said.

Planned drilling

Hilcorp has previously indicated that it would bring a jack-up drilling rig to Cook Inlet for exploratory drilling in its federal acreage. The company has also indicated that it is particularly interested in testing the Blackbill prospect, penetrated by ARCO’s Raven No. 1 well in 1982 and situated about halfway across the inlet. The prospect is known to hold oil in a Cretaceous reservoir. Hilcorp’s seismic survey found that the oil discovery is associated with a 65,000-acre, four-way closure in the rock strata.

The area of interest lies some distance south of most of the producing oil and gas fields of the upper Cook Inlet but not far from BlueCrest Operating Alaska’s Cosmopolitan oil field offshore the southern Kenai Peninsula and Hilcorp’s nearby Seaview gas field.

The federal offshore leases lie north of the Augustine-Seldovia Arch, a geologic structure to the south of which the Tertiary strata that host the producing Cook Inlet fields thin out. However, the Cretaceous rocks associated with the Blackbill prospect are part of the Mesozoic sequence that underlies the Tertiary.

Survey objectives

The survey now planned for this year will focus on locating drilling hazards, determining a suitable location for a jack-up rig, and looking for archaeological features on the seabed, Hilcorp told BOEM. A single deep-draft vessel, the Research Vessel Woldstad, owned and operated by Support Vessels of Alaska, will conduct the survey. Another vessel owned by eTrac Inc. will support the operations. The surveying will involve several technologies, including the use of a multi-beam echosounder, side scan sonar, a sub-bottom profiler and a magnetometer. The previously collected 3-D seismic will also be used to assess shallow subsurface hazards. Core samples from below the seafloor will be collected. And a cone device will determine soil stability and the characteristics of the seafloor for supporting a jack-up rig.

Hilcorp had previously also filed a marine mammal monitoring and mitigation plan, in support of a petition for approval of the incidental and unintended disturbance of small numbers of sea otters. This plan and petition encompass both the geohazards surveying and any subsequent drilling activities. The plan also references oil and gas exploration and development that Hilcorp may undertake in the future, onshore the Iniskin Peninsula, on the west side of Cook Inlet, opposite Anchor Point in the southern Kenai Peninsula.

In association with the new geohazard survey permit application Hilcorp has also filed a new environmental evaluation document, assessing the potential environmental impacts of the survey.

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