Vol. 26, No.9 Week of February 28, 2021
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Rig 111 headed to Merlin 1 drill site

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88 Energy’s North Slope camp and airport for Peregrine exploration program are open, well spud still set for first week of March

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

Mobilization of All American Rig 111 to the Merlin 1 drilling location in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska has begun, Perth, Australia-based 88 Energy said Feb. 18 in an ASX operations update on its North Slope Peregrine exploration program.

With the camp and airport already open, the well is scheduled to be spud in the first week of March. Drilling and logging are expected to take three to four weeks by one of the company’s Alaska subsidiaries that is headed by long-time Alaska geologist Erik Opstad.

“Dependent on the results from the logging, the well will then be flow tested,” 88 Energy said.

Dave Wall, the company’s outgoing managing director, was quoted in the update as saying: “Commencement of drilling at Merlin 1 is now just around the corner, targeting the extension of the highly successful Nanushuk play. Success would underpin a company making development project for our shareholders, with the proven resource at the recently acquired at Umiat Oil Field adding substantial value.”

Per the operations update, Merlin 1 is targeting 645 million barrels of gross mean prospective resource.

A second well in the Peregrine project, Harrier 1, “is intended to commence immediately following completion of operations at Merlin 1, subject to Merlin well results, schedule and permit approvals,” 88 Energy said.

Harrier 1 is targeting a gross mean prospective resource of 417 million barrels.

Harrier and Merlin lie between the Umiat oil field to the south and Willow and Harpoon to the north.

Harpoon not a discovery — yet

The Peregrine prospects are “located on trend to an existing discovery,” to the north in the same play type - Nanushuk topsets, the company said.

The Harrier and Merlin prospects are in XCD Energy’s 195,000-acre Peregrine block that 88 Energy acquired in an off-market takeover in July.

Both companies have said Merlin was a direct analogy to ConocoPhillips’ big Willow oil discovery, while the Harrier prospect has been interpreted to lie on the same sequence boundaries as ConocoPhillips’ Harpoon prospect.

But in its Feb. 18 operations update 88 Energy referred to Harpoon as a discovery (see earlier map in the pdf and print versions of this story); rather than a prospect, despite the fact that in its Feb. 16 10-K annual report for 2020, ConocoPhillips said its first and only well at Harpoon is a dry hole.

Nonetheless, ConocoPhillips still has high hopes for the prospect and intends to return to Harpoon to explore its “remaining potential” in the future (see Harpoon story on page 1 of this issue.)

Three stacked reservoir targets

The Merlin prospect comprises three separate stacked reservoir targets in the Nanushuk formation. The deepest, N14 South, sits on the same shelf break as Harpoon, while the shallowest target, N20, correlates to the Willow discovery, 88 Energy shown in an illustration in its operations update.

“The N20 shelf/sequence boundary has been proven as a hydrocarbon bearing and commercial petroleum system by the Willow discovery to the north,” the company noted, adding “topset sands of the N18 have yet to be intersected optimally.”

Merlin 1 is estimated to cost US$12.6 million total, while Harrier 1 well is expected to cost US$7 million if it is drilled right after Merlin 1 in the same winter season.

Both wells will be drilled to a depth of approximately 6,000 feet in order to intersect the Nanushuk.

A third Merlin prospect

A third prospect in the Peregrine block, Harrier Deep, has a Torok objective at about 10,000 feet. It will not be drilled in the 2021 winter season because the shallower Nanushuk wells do not require the use of a rotary rig or an ice road, which is needed to transport the heavier traditional North Slope exploration rigs.

This allows 88 Energy to use a less expensive lightweight workover rig that can be moved off-road in pieces by tundra-safe track vehicles on snow trails. Although the use of lightweight, portable rigs and snow roads was studied and considered by XCD, Armstrong and Oil Search, 88 Energy will be the first to conduct a major wildcat exploration program on the North Slope with a lightweight rig.

Talitha A well connections

The operations update also noted that Great Bear Pantheon’s Talitha A exploration well, which just reached its full depth, is “close to the northern border of the 88E central acreage position (Project Icewine).”

Talitha A, Wall said, is “scheduled to be flow tested over multiple horizons after encouraging log results.” (See story titled “Talitha exploration well results promising” in the Feb. 21 issue of Petroleum News.)

Several of the “prospective horizons” in Talitha A are “interpreted to extend into 88E acreage,” he said.

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