Vol. 24, No.37 Week of September 22, 2019
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

ConocoPhillips: Time to drill

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Big Alaska North Slope oil producer plans another aggressive exploration season

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

In last winter’s off-road season, ConocoPhillips conducted its largest exploration season on the North Slope since 2002, drilling eight wells and laying down 54 miles of ice roads for those wells. This coming winter the company plans to drill seven exploration wells and build 74 miles of ice roads for drilling, Scott Jepsen, ConocoPhillips Alaska vice president of external affairs and transportation, said Sept. 12.

The big independent will also acquire 3D seismic over Narwhal, ConocoPhillips’ informal name for the geologic Nanushuk FM topset play that is also found at nearby Pikka, per the U.S. Geological Survey and Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas.

Jepsen also noted that 75% of the company’s North Slope prospect inventory remains untested (see map in print and pdf versions of this story).

As to where the wells will be drilled, Jepsen mentioned the Harpoon prospect southwest of Willow and more wells in the Willow area, which the map shows contains some undrilled prospects.

In the company’s second quarter earnings call on July 30, Michael D. Hatfield, ConocoPhillips president, Alaska, Canada and Europe, also talked about the upcoming North Slope appraisal and exploration season.

“We’re going to be drilling in Willow and the primary focus is on understanding the extent of Willow, so that we can fully size the facilities,” he said, which likely means most of those wells will be appraisal or development holes.

“We’re also going to be drilling a prospect to the southwest called Harpoon. We’ll drill several wells in Harpoon,” Hatfield said, promising to provide more information on both Willow and Harpoon in November.

Alaska capex substantial

During that same conference call, ConocoPhillips executives and supporting financial information reported that out of a company-wide capital budget of $3.4 billion for the first half of the year, ConocoPhillips had already spent approximately $700 million in Alaska, which excluded planned and completed acquisitions.

Having recently discovered approximately 1 billion barrels of light, sweet oil west of the central North Slope, ConocoPhillips execs said the company was in the process of planning another aggressive exploration and appraisal season on the North Slope for the coming winter, with more emphasis on exploration versus the appraisal drilling that was largely the focus last winter.

Matt J. Fox, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ConocoPhillips, provided a brief overview of the company’s year-to-date Alaska operations, as well as the outlook for the remainder of 2019 and into early 2020.

“The results have been encouraging for both Willow and the Narwhal trends,” Fox said. “Based on these positive results, we’re also taking the opportunity to drill an additional unbudgeted horizontal well from an existing Alpine drill site into the Narwhal trend later this year.”

Willow, West Willow and Harpoon are in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, at the western end of the company’s planned developments. ConocoPhillips has said it expects Willow’s peak oil production will be about 100,000 barrels per day, although in a mid-March Bloomberg interview Fox said the company was “unsure,” and still trying to determine just how much oil can be produced from the area, mentioning volumes as high as 140,000 bpd.

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