Vol. 24, No.24 Week of June 16, 2019
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Hilcorp installing third polymer injection facility at Milne Point

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Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

On June 10, Hilcorp Alaska received authorization from the state of Alaska to install a third polymer injection facility in the Milne Point field, this time at F-pad, which is near the Beaufort Sea coast. F-Pad is the farthest north of the North Slope unit's production pads.

Injecting polymer and water into the field has been more successful in coaxing the viscous crude - oil with the consistency of syrup - from the reservoir than conventional waterflood, David Wilkins, Hilcorp senior vice president for Alaska, said in November.

Both J-Pad and Moose Pad, which came online in June 2018 and in April of this year, respectively, already have polymer injection facilities.

Using polymer, Hilcorp expects to increase crude recovery from 10 to 15% of the oil in place at Milne to as much as 50%, per slides Wilkins used in his presentation at the Resource Development Council of Alaska’s annual conference in November.

In the amendment to the Milne Point unit’s 37th plan of development, the Division of Oil and Gas described the scope of the F-Pad polymer project as a gravel expansion on the existing pad, an injection building, a high pressure water letdown building, a motor control center/utilities building and a polymer storage silo.

Tapping into Schrader Bluff

The injection of polymer will be used to increase production from existing wells MPF-106, MPF-108 and MPF-110, which Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records show as tapping into the Schrader Bluff reservoir.

Plan activities involve the following: excavating gravel from permitted sources; placing and spreading gravel on the tundra while working from the existing gravel pad and road (the new gravel is to be level with the current pad); putting 30 foot long 6-inch thick rig mats on the pad; securing the portable modular units (injection building, high pressure water letdown building, the motor control center/utilities building and the polymer storage silo); installing self-standing exterior landings for module access; tying the new facility into existing above-ground utilities; installing approximately 200 feet of new piping on new supports to tie in the three wells to the pump skid; connecting and installing electrical and instrumentation in the portable modular units; and putting in additional infrastructure and tie-ins as needed.

Milne produces mainly from the Kuparuk (light oil) and Schrader Bluff (viscous oil) reservoirs and will soon again be producing from the Ugnu and Sag River (both viscous) reservoirs, per Hilcorp’ s 37th plan of development.

In December, total Milne Point output was 21,075 barrels per day, with light oil and viscous oil production split almost exactly in half, but as the field ages, Wilkins said, those percentages will change, and more viscous oil will be extracted.

In April, total oil production averaged 25,260 bpd, up 17.7% from April 2018.

Big role on North Slope

Injecting polymer along with water into a reservoir for enhanced oil recovery, Wilkins said, is a technique that has a 30-year track record in other parts of the world but had not been tried on the North Slope until Hilcorp installed a small facility on J-Pad last year.

“I think it’s going to play a big role on the North Slope,” he said.

The company is planning for growth at Milne, he said, noting an oil processing plant that has since been built on the 14-acre Moose Pad and is capable of handling 85,000 bpd of fluids; the pad itself is designed to accommodate 25-plus producing wells (50 to 70 total wells), with peak oil output expected to be approximately 22,000 bpd.

Moose Pad is at the western edge of the Milne Point unit near the Kuparuk River field boundary.

Following on the heels of Moose Pad, which was the first new Milne pad since 2002, Hilcorp is planning to build another new pad in the unit, R-Pad, which would be south of or an extension of F-Pad.

Started as a science project

The U.S. Department of Energy, University of Alaska Fairbanks, New Mexico Tech, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of North Dakota and Hilcorp are working together on the four-year pilot polymer flood program at J-Pad.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory under the Office of Fossil Energy’s Advanced Technology Solutions for Unconventional Oil and Gas Development is managing the program.

“The estimates of total heavy oil in place within the Alaska North Slope reservoirs amounts to about 20–25 billion barrels, with around two-thirds of the heavy oil lying under the adjacent Kuparuk River unit,” NETL said at the start of the program. “Traditional water floods have yielded low oil recoveries while thermal, miscible fluids and gas injection methods are not applicable to this resource. Laboratory and simulation studies indicate that polymer flooding has great potential to enhance oil recovery from the Schrader Bluff heavy oil reservoirs. This field test will advance knowledge of heavy oil’s production viability using polymer floods at ANS and across the United States. Success at this location will strengthen the viability of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System in the upcoming decade and improve royalty and other fees to the U.S. taxpayer.”

Total cost-shared program funding from DOE and others at the time was approximately $9.6 million.

According to Hilcorp there are approximately 1.3 billion barrels of viscous oil in the Milne Point unit.

Other North Slope operators BP, ConocoPhillips and Eni are also producing viscous oil from deposits in the Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River and Nikaitchuq units.

Operated by Hilcorp, the Milne Point field is owned 50-50 by Hilcorp and BP.


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