Vol. 27, No.37 Week of September 25, 2022
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

He’s back at it!

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Bill Armstrong leads exploration team; this time, West Castle in NPR-A

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

A Bill Armstrong company, North Slope Energy LLC, is planning a multi-year onshore oil and gas exploration drilling program in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. He’s pursuing what he describes as “a perfect look-alike to Willow and Pikka,” meaning Nanushuk reservoirs.

See map for this story in the online PDF.

Starting with two wells in the first year, North Slope Energy will drill into a 92,000-acre lease block purchased from Anchorage-based Borealis Alaska Oil in early 2020.

“West Castle is a gorgeous prospect. We identified it off of 3D seismic,” Armstrong told Petroleum News in mid-September.

Shortly after acquiring the acreage, Armstrong told PN his leases lie to the immediate west of ConocoPhillips’ Harpoon prospect.

Drilling is expected to start Feb. 15, 2023, using All American 111 drill rig.

Wells are planned as single, vertical wellbores. Well formation evaluations via open and cased hole logs will be performed during the drilling at both wells.

At completion of formation evaluation in terms of commercial viability, wells will be plugged and abandoned.

West Inigok Exploration Area

Armstrong’s plans became public after North Slope Energy applied to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for an Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan, or ODPCP, as part of its “West Inigok Exploration Area Exploration Program.” DEC posted a public notice on the application on Sept. 15, as first reported by PN’s News Bulletin Service.

The ODPCP was signed by Armstrong, president of Armstrong Oil &Gas Inc., manager of North Slope Energy LLC, on Aug. 12, 2022.

The ODPCP was prepared for North Slope Energy by ASRC Consulting & Environmental, a subsidiary of ASRC Energy Services.

The 200-plus-page document said the “primary target reservoir objectives are Nanushuk sand.”

An existing 7.5-acre gravel pad will be used as an operations base. It is connected to the Inigok Airstrip by an all-season gravel road that can be accessed using ice or snow roads from the wells that will be drilled this winter. The pad and the airstrip’s 6,500-foot runway improve the logistics of exploratory drilling in the area.

All planned exploratory drilling will be conducted on ice pads using overland packed snow roads originating from Drill Site 2P and extending west across the Colville River to the West Inigok Area exploration drill sites.

A 500 foot by 400 foot ice pad will be built adjacent to Drill Site 2P to provide space for storage and fuel storage and transfer.

The objective of the ODPCP is to prevent and/or limit the spread of a spill, minimize potential environmental impacts, and provide safety for personnel.

Castle Prospect trend

In early 2020 Borealis, a June 2019 re-brand of Nordaq Energy, held an NPR-A lease position amounting to 206,966 acres, referred to as the Castle Prospect Trend, directly southwest of ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil discovery. There were six individual lower Nanushuk prospects, including the Castle West prospect, within the trend.

The Inigok No. 1 test well, drilled in the trend area in the 1980s by Husky Oil for the U.S. Geological Survey, indicated a strong possibility of finding oil. Although the well was drilled deep, in search of oil in the Ellesmerian sequence, the host sequence for oil in the Prudhoe Bay field, the upper part of the well found gas with compositions indicative of the presence of light oil in the Brookian sequence, the rock sequence that includes the Nanushuk.

And testing the Brookian prospects only requires relatively shallow drilling, to depths of around 4,000 to 5,000 feet.

Bill Armstrong’s impact

When William “Bill” D. Armstrong first arrived in Alaska more than 20 years ago, he predicted the “best days of Alaska oil and gas were yet to come” - a bold statement considering North Slope oil production was in decline, with the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline carrying half the oil it had at peak production in 1988.

Armstrong has since made believers of many Alaskans. He was responsible for the discovery of the North Slope Oooguruk field, Nikaitchuq field and the still expanding Pikka field complex which includes the Pikka, Horseshoe, Stirrup and Mitquq discoveries.

Through these exploration efforts Armstrong brought in multiple entrants to the North Slope - Eni, Pioneer, Kerr McGee, Repsol and Oil Search (now part of Santos).

“The Nanushuk discoveries at Pikka were a big surprise to the industry as it was a shallow horizon in and amongst deeper developments in the Alpine and Kuparuk River field areas,” Armstrong said.

“The size of the Nanushuk fields was the biggest surprise with several of the new fields estimated to be in excess of 1 billion barrels of recoverable oil.”

Armstrong said the Nanushuk play is still in its infancy and Pikka-size oil discoveries are likely repeatable across Alaska’s North Slope, stretching 350 miles from the western edge of the state near the Chukchi Sea, through the bourgeoning Pikka/Willow complex, all the way to the eastern edge of Alaska state lands.

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