Vol. 25, No.49 Week of December 06, 2020
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Alpine clocks 20 years

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ConocoPhillips Alaska still investing, still pulling oil, from North Slope field

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

On Nov. 16, 2000, ConocoPhillips Alaska predecessor Phillips Alaska announced it had begun moving oil from the North Slope Alpine field west of Kuparuk and adjacent to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

An earlier predecessor, ARCO Alaska, discovered Alpine in 1994 and delineated it in subsequent winter drilling seasons.

Successor ConocoPhillips Alaska continues to operate Alpine, which is part of the Colville River unit.

In 1996 Alpine was deemed a commercial-grade discovery. In the years that followed a main drilling and production pad was completed and pipelines built between Alpine and the Kuparuk oil field. Gravel was also laid for a secondary drilling pad and a road between the two pads.

Once the Alpine field went online in late 2000, work in 2001 included pipelines between the pads, completion of a bridge on the road between the pads and installation of modules on the secondary pad, which became operational that summer.

Phillips said that as of Nov. 16, 2000, 30 wells - 16 production and 14 injection - had been completed at the first Alpine drill site. The company also said the entire Alpine development called for two drill sites and more than 112 horizontal wells.

Ryan Lance, Phillips Alaska’s vice president for the western North Slope (today he is chairman and CEO of parent ConocoPhillips) told Petroleum News Nov. 16 that the company circulated diesel through the system to warm it up “over the last four or five days, and when we were ready to go and had the final safety system checks, we opened up the wells yesterday.”

Lance said production started with nine wells and a production level of 35,000 to 40,000 barrels a day. About 31,000 barrels would be required to fill the line, so it would take about 20 hours for the first oil to reach Kuparuk, probably about dinner time Nov. 16, he said.

“I sell crude at Kuparuk,” Lance said, “so my cash register starts ringing when it gets to Kuparuk.”

The rest of the existing production wells were brought on quickly, with oil production ramping up before year-end to 80,000 barrels of oil per day.

At the time Phillips estimated the gross recoverable reserves from Alpine at 429 million barrels.

Phillips Petroleum Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulva called Alpine key to Phillips’ Alaska operations.

Alpine was the farthest west producing field on the North Slope at the time and the first significant commercial oil production on lands conveyed to an Alaska Native corporation pursuant to the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

“Under the terms of ANCSA,” Jacob Adams, then president of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said at the time, “70% of the net revenues realized by ASRC are distributed among all regional corporations in Alaska, who in turn share one-half of their receipts with the village corporations and their at-large shareholders.”

The companies said that Alpine field construction took three years and 6 million manhours. Total cost would be more than $1 billion, of which the companies said $800 million has been spent with Alaska contractors.

The field included both state and Kuukpik Village Corp. lands. The royalty interest was owned by the state of Alaska, the Kuukpik Village Corp. and by ASRC.

Both Kuukpik and ASRC would, and continue to, receive royalty shares from Alpine production. Residents of Nuiqsut also get gas from the field for village power generation.

Production setbacks

Twenty years later there are five drilling pads in the Colville River unit. In addition to oil from the main/largest Alpine pool, Colville production includes satellite output from Fiord, Nanuq and Qannik.

Because drilling in the unit was halted for much of 2020 due to COVID concerns and is not expected to restart until mid-December these recent production numbers can be expected to increase in 2021: The Colville River unit averaged 41,473 bpd in September, down 23.6% from a September 2019 average of 54,271 bpd.

ConocoPhillips completed initial development drilling at Alpine in November 2005 from the CD1 and CD2 pads and switched to peripheral opportunities. The startup of the CD5 pad in late 2015 provided additional opportunities to produce from the pool.

The Alpine pool includes two participating areas: Alpine and Nanuq Kuparuk. The Alpine participating area is currently being developed from 156 wells - 82 producers, 72 injectors, and two disposal wells in the Ivishak. The Nanuq Kuparuk participating area is currently being developed from 13 wells - six producers and seven injectors.

Alpine plans

In the coming year, the company is planning (dependent on budget approval from corporate in Houston since these plans were announced earlier in 2020) an undefined coiled tubing drilling program at the Alpine field using laterals to target areas between existing producers. The company Ais also planning a rotary program at Alpine including three producers and six injectors.

Within the Nanuq Kuparuk sand, ConocoPhillips is planning to use an extended reach drilling rig in early 2021 to access opportunities to the west of the CD5-316 well - again, this could be delayed a year.

Oil production is declining at the pool. The Alpine participating area produced 34,900 barrels of oil per day in 2019, down from 37,100 bpd in 2018. The Nanuq Kuparuk participating area produced 10,000 bpd in 2019, down from 12,600 bpd in 2018. The combined pool has produced 504.4 million barrels of oil cumulative since startup.

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In ConocoPhillips’ words

On its website ConocoPhillips describes its Alpine field operations as follows:

The Alpine Field, located approximately 34 miles west of Kuparuk, is one of the largest conventional onshore oil fields developed in North America in the past 25 years.

Alpine is a model for future oil developments as directional drilling and other innovations minimize its environmental footprint.

In 2019, net crude oil production was 27 MBOED (million barrels oil equivalent per day).

Alpine West CD5, a drill site that extends the Alpine reservoir into the NPR-A, achieved first production in 2015. The original project scope was completed in 2016

ConocoPhillips has substantially advanced the state of drilling technology at CD5. Favorable results have led to continued drilling and approval of two subsequent projects to expand CD5 up to its full 43-well slot capacity. The company has drilled Alaska’s 10 longest wells there, with one measuring over 33,000 feet in horizontal distance.


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