Vol. 26, No.20 Week of May 16, 2021
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Borealis moves forward

Click here to go to the full PDF version of this issue, with any maps, photos or other artwork that appears in some of the articles.

As promised, independent continues permitting 2022 Nanushuk exploratory drilling program

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

In preparation for exploratory drilling next winter in its Castle North prospect in the northeastern National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, Borealis Alaska Oil Inc. applied for an Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. That plan, which is comprehensive and covers the company’s exploration drilling operations for all its NPR-A North Slope oil and gas prospects, is out for a 30-day public review that ends June 7 at 11:59 p.m. AKT.

In NPR-A, the Borealis leases lie in what the Anchorage-based independent named the Castle prospect trend, a series of six individual Brookian prospects in the lower Nanushuk formation. Southwest of Willow, the prospects are directly analogous to the geologic setting for major oil discoveries at Pikka, under development by Oil Search (Alaska), and by ConocoPhillips at Willow, Richard “Dick” Garrard, Borealis chief technical officer, told Petroleum News in mid-2020.

Borealis’ Castle East prospect lies in the same sand body as the Harpoon prospect, where ConocoPhillips drilled an exploration well in the winter of 2019-20.

Borealis is looking for a joint venture partner for its two Castle North leases; the first NPR-A acreage it plans to drill.

Borealis’ first taker for a JV partner was Armstrong Oil & Gas for a 72% interest in the Castle West prospect.

The reason the company decided to drill Castle North first was because of its proximity to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Inigok Operations Center and its infrastructure, which will reduce the costs of the exploration program.

The Castle North winter exploration project is on the Arctic coastal plain approximately 35 miles west of the Colville River and 15 miles west of Judy Creek. Teshekpuk Lake is about 30 miles to the north and the closest coastline is some 40 miles from the project area.

The coastal area is broad and flat with numerous lakes and waterbodies.

Inigok history

The U.S. Geological Survey and Husky Oil drilled the Inigok No. 1 well in what is today called the Castle North prospect in 1978 and 1979. The well was subsequently plugged and abandoned but the infrastructure for the project remains useable and includes a large gravel pad and a year-round, 6,500-foot gravel airstrip.

Borealis currently holds two NPR-A leases that define the Castle North prospect (see map in the pdf and print versions of this issue of PN).

Drilling plans

Drilling operations will involve two wells, Castle North 1 and Castle North 2, although the company has identified four potential Castle North drilling sites.

Activities include mobilization, snow trail/ice road and ice pad construction, possible well testing and demobilization. They will initially follow the existing exploratory road from Deadhorse to ConocoPhillips Kuparuk 2-P pad. Beyond this point, access will require an approximate 80-mile-long packed snow trail.

Project ice roads will be constructed from the Inigok Operations Center to transport a drill rig and equipment to the drill sites. The airstrip at Inigok may be used for additional access via aircraft, Borealis said.

Drilling operations will occur on a 250,000 square foot ice pad with a surface working area of 400 feet by 400 feet, or 160,000 square feet. The pad will support the land-based drill rig and a small Command Center camp.

Borealis said in its application that the Doyon Arctic Fox drill rig (or one similar) will be used.

The proposed CN 1 well site is approximately 40 miles west of the Colville River, 50 miles southwest of Nuiqsut.

Access to the site will be via a 7.4-mile-long ice road from the Inigok Operations Center, with rig mobilization expected to occur in January.

Drilling, coring, setting casing, and testing are expected to take up to 30 days. Once completed, the rig will be demobilized and transported to the next drill site, CN 2, between late-February and mid-March.

Access to the site will be via a 4.14-mile-long ice road from the Inigok Operations Center. The rig will be demobilized between mid- and late-April.

Site cleanup, closure inspections and remediation (as needed) will take place in late-April with final post snow stick picking and site closure by June, the company said in its C-plan app.

Ahead of Willow

According to Garrard, Nordaq (later rebranded Borealis) recognized the potential of the Castle trend and obtained leases in the area three years before ConocoPhillips announced its big Willow oil discovery.

Borealis said it will use Alaska Chadux as the primary response action contractor and the IC contractor Witt-O’Brien’s will provide the primary support for staffing the incident command team.

Contractors in Deadhorse or Prudhoe Bay may be used for logistics or other support.

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