Vol. 28, No.5 Week of January 29, 2023
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Hilcorp applies to expand Pearl pad at Ninilchik, drill new wells

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Kristen Nelson

Petroleum News

Hilcorp Alaska has applied to expand the Pearl pad at its Ninilchik unit on the Kenai Peninsula and drill two new gas production wells and one combined gas development and oil exploration well.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas issued a public notice on the application, which is a unit plan of operations amendment, on Jan. 24, with comments on the proposal due by 4:30 p.m. Feb. 23.

(See map in the online issue PDF)

This is the second recent pad expansion at Ninilchik.

In August the division approved a request from Hilcorp to expand the Paxton pad. In January Hilcorp filed a unit plan of operations amendment to drill two new wells from the Paxton pad. Paxton accounted for 43% of Ninilchik unit natural gas production in November, the most recent month for which production data is available from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Ninilchik accounted for 17.3% of Cook Inlet natural gas production in that month, the second most productive field after Hilcorp’s North Cook Inlet.

Paxton is the most southerly producing pad at Ninilchik.

Pearl, currently only an exploration pad, is south of Paxton, on acreage just outside the unit boundary, although wells are drilled from the pad into Ninilchik unit acreage.

Pearl exploration

Hilcorp drilled seven Pearl stratigraphic test wells in 2021 and in 2022 began drilling Pearl exploration wells, with AOGCC records showing two of three permitted exploration wells completed last year.

The current application includes pad expansion with wells and facilities.

The company said it proposes to expand the existing Pearl pad, drill two grassroots gas development wells, Pearl 10 and Pearl 11, and one combined gas development and oil exploration well, Pearl 12, “and install associated infrastructure including gas flowlines, electrical instrumentation, a line heater, and a separator.”

Hilcorp said the pad is outside Ninilchik unit boundaries on private land, but the bottomhole location for each gas well is within the unit.

The pad expansion provides “additional space necessary for production well drilling and increased gas production from the NKU. The expansion has been designed to be the smallest achievable footprint to allow for rig placement, associated well drilling activities, and facilities access.”

The schedule calls for pad expansion from March 1 through April 5; drilling and testing Pearl 10 from March 20 through June 30; drilling and testing Pearl 11 from May 16 through June 30; drilling and testing Pearl 12 from June 30 through July 30; installation of facility piping, electrical and instrumentation lines to tie wells into existing production infrastructure from July 30 through Aug. 15; and gas production from the three wells beginning Aug. 15.

All dates are subject to “permit authorizations, project constraints, scheduling, weather, and other factors,” the company said.

The new wells will be tied into future gas production facility infrastructure on Pearl pad, but no new buildings are proposed.

Hilcorp Rig 169 will be used to drill the wells.

Impact issues

Hilcorp said industry best management practices will be used to minimize noise from the drilling program, and noted that drilling and well testing work is temporary.

“Sound impacts will be temporary and will occur primarily during construction and drilling,” the company said.

“Except where safety concerns dictate elsewhere, lights on the drill rig and mobile light plants will be pointed down toward activities occurring on the pad. The typical use of loudspeakers to communicate during drilling will be replaced by the use of handheld radios. Additionally, drilling vehicles and heavy equipment will use broadband ‘white noise’ backup alarms, instead of the typical louder and more annoying single-tone backup alarms. Sight impacts will be mitigated by leaving the existing trees and vegetation surrounding the pad area.”

Hilcorp said paid construction would take approximately four weeks, as will the drilling of each well.

Construction will be on a daytime 12-hour shift, probably 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

But the company said it is not practical to operate the drilling rig “on a schedule other than around the clock,” although “steps will be taken to minimize visual and sound impacts during operation.”

A mitigation measure waiver is being requested for the pad location, which will be within one-half mile of the mean high water of Cook Inlet. “The coastline near Ninilchik, Alaska has multiple active gas production facilities,” Hilcorp said. “Pearl Pad is sited approximately one mile from Paxton Pad, the nearest active gas production facility. Gas exploration and production is an established land usage in the Ninilchik area,” the company said.

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