Great Bear Pantheon’s 2-well Alkaid exploration plan approved
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On May 13, Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas approved Great Bear Pantheon’s unit plan of operations to carry out the Alkaid 2 and Alkaid 3 exploration program in the Alkaid unit approximately 20 miles south of Deadhorse on Alaska’s North Slope. The project will start in May 2022 and be finished no later than Feb. 1, 2024.
The Alkaid 2 and 3 gravel pads, positioned 4 miles apart, will each sit 1,000 feet west of the Dalton Highway.
Each pad will have two access roads connecting directly to the highway. The ingress portion of the access roads will be 2,500 feet by 40 feet for Alkaid 2 and 1,200 feet by 40 feet for Alkaid 3. Both egress roads will be 1,000 feet by 40 feet.
The pads are expected to have a 500-foot by 260-foot working surface area and will each cover a total of 3.3 acres of tundra.
Great Bear will build one staging pad using rig mats on the former Alcor 1 site, which sits directly across the Dalton Highway from the Alkaid 2 ingress road.
Cruz developed techniquesThe division’s decision also said Cruz Construction has developed techniques designed to address the challenges presented when placing gravel intended for same-season heavy use. A layer of permeable geotextile fabric will be installed directly over the organic layer to provide separation and stabilization of the tundra.
A layer of 2 to 3 feet of gravel will be placed with a dozer and compacted with a vibratory roller to further evacuate water from the fill.
A 3-to-6-inch thaw depth in the active layer is expected when the first lift is placed. This initial layer will be suitable only for off-road equipment.
A CAT 730 haul truck will be used to transfer stockpiled gravel from the roadside to the dozer for placement.
The haul trucks will split tracks to avoid damage to the geotextile and vegetation mat caused by rutting.
Successive layers of fill will be placed in lifts of approximately12 inches and compacted up to a total thickness of 5 feet.
The final lift will be placed loose and bladed into windrows to help remove moisture, after which it will be leveled and compacted to a minimum of 95% of the maximum dry density.
A vertical well each will be drilled from the Alkaid 2 and 3 drill sites, the decision said. The wells will be drilled to the base of the Brookian sand at approximately 8,000 feet. Combined with their horizontal wells, they will each have a total depth of up to18,000 feet.
The well at Alkaid 2 will be drilled to the southwest, and the well at Alkaid 3 will be drilled to the northeast. Each horizontal well will be logged, cased and fracture stimulated with a multi-stage frac.
Operations scheduleGreat Bear expects to finish gravel mining and conditioning in early June, then construct Alkaid 2 gravel driveway (ingress and egress) and drill pad by July 1. The company will finish building the Alcor staging pad using rig mats by July 1, move the drill rig to Alkaid 2, rig up and spud by July 15.
Great Bear expects to finish drilling, casing and fracking Alkaid 3 by Oct. 15.
It will build the Alkaid 3 gravel driveways and drill pad by Aug. 31, begin Alkaid 2 flow testing by Oct. 15 and finish it no later than May 31, 202.
The company expects to start moving the rig to Alkaid 3 around Feb. 1, 2023, and finish rig up and spudding by Feb. 15, 2023, then drill and case Alkaid 3, finishing by March 30, 2023, and have the well fracked and flow tested no later than Feb. 1, 2024.
The Alcor 1 staging pad “will be primarily used for tubular storage and Conex with dry supplies,” the division said in its decision.
Buildings for the projectThe Alkaid 2 and 3 drill sites are expected to contain nearly identical facilities and building layout.
Great Bear plans to install a satellite office camp with an 11-bed capacity; fuel, drilling fluids, and waste storage areas; and standard maintenance buildings.
The crew is expected to be housed primarily at a camp in Deadhorse or the Aurora Hotel.
Prior exploration activitiesExploration around the Alkaid unit can be divided into three phases: early post Prudhoe discovery step-out drilling from 1969-1974; focused exploration tests from 1980 through the mid-1990s driven by increased 2D seismic data coverage; and post 2010, Great Bear Petroleum entrance driving regional 3D seismic coverage across the initial vast leasehold.
Phase 1, the decision said, was largely conducted by the Atlantic Richfield Oil Co., or ARCO, in its effort to expand the Kuparuk River unit.
In 1969, ARCO drilled two wells, Toolik 1 and 2, in proximity to the project. Both wells were plugged and abandoned with no testing.
In the late 1980s through the 1990s, increased 2D seismic data acquisition led to further exploration of the surrounding areas by various operators; however, exploration within the Alkaid unit did not pick up until Great Bear’s entry to the area in 2010.
In 2012, Great Bear began acquiring 3D survey data sets covering an area spanning between the Alkaid unit and the Talitha unit, and drilled two stratigraphic test wells, Alcor 1 and Merak 1. Oil shows were documented in both the Campanian and Kuparuk strata correlative to the reservoir zones in Alkaid and Talitha, the division said.
The Alkaid 1 exploration well was then drilled during the 2014-2015 winter exploration season. Drilling did not reach target depth due to flooding from the Sag River, which led to an eventual suspension of activities at Alkaid 1.
Great Bear continued to acquire 3D survey data sets in the area throughout 2015 and 2016.
In 2019, Alkaid1 was re-entered and flow tested with positive results.
No commentsThe division said that public notice of the plan and opportunity to comment, per AS 38.05.035, was published on the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the division websites and faxes of the public notice were sent to the Deadhorse, Nuiqsut, and Utqiaġvik post offices on April 7, 2022.
Additionally, a copy of the notice was posted in Anchorage Daily News on April 11 and April 17, 2022, and the Arctic Sounder on April 14, and April 28, 2022, with a deadline for comments of May 7, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. Alaska time.
No comments were received.
Conditions of approvalThe division, which is part of the Department of Natural Resources, approved the plan as amended and modified by the May 11 decision. To protect the state’s interest, the division found it was necessary to amend the plan to incorporate the following conditions of approval:
A) “The applicant shall defend, indemnify, and hold the State of Alaska harmless from and against any and all claims, damages, suits, losses, liabilities and expenses for injury to or death of persons and damage to or loss of property arising out of or in connection with the entry on and use of State lands authorized under this approval by the applicant, its contractors, subcontractors and their employees.”
B) “The applicant shall inform and ensure compliance with any and all conditions of this approval by its employees, agents and contractors, including subcontractors at any level.”
C) “Unless pre-authorized by a general permit, amendments and modifications to this approval require advance notice and must be approved in writing by the DNR.”
D) “The commissioner of the DNR may require that an authorized representative be on site during any operations conducted under this approval. This stipulation is required to ensure that DNR meets its statutory responsibilities for monitoring activities taking place on State-owned lands.”
E) “A status report for the activities conducted under this approval must be filed with this office on May 1 and November 1 each year, from the date this approval is issued and until a final completion report is filed with the Division. If a lessee requests an assignment, a status report must also be submitted during the assignment process. Failure to file in a timely manner may result in revocation of this approval.”
Status reportsEach status report must include a statement describing and map(s) depicting all operations actually conducted on the leased area as of the date the report is prepared, which includes the location, design and completion status of well sites, material sites, water supplies, solid waste sites, buildings, roads, utilities, airstrips, and all other facilities and equipment installed.
Upon completion of operations, Great Bear has to submit a completion report that includes all information required of a status report described above as well as a statement indicating the date of completion of operations, any noncompliance with the terms of the approved plan, cleanup activities conducted, the method of debris disposal, and a narrative description of known incidents of surface damage.
Great Bear has to notify the DNR of all spills that must be reported under 18 AAC 75.300 under timelines of 18 AAC 75.300. Several other requirements are included in the approval decision and can be viewed on the division’s website.
- KAY CASHMAN