Vol. 25, No.28 Week of July 12, 2020
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Borealis working 2021-22 plans, starting planning, permitting work

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Alan Bailey

for Petroleum News

Borealis Alaska Oil Inc. is continuing to progress plans for exploratory drilling in its Castle North prospect in the northeastern National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, Richard Garrard, Borealis chief technical officer, has told Petroleum News. The intention is to drill in the winter of 2021-22, he said. The company is also evaluating the reprocessing of some 2-D seismic associated with its Grey Owl prospect trend on state land near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Garrard said.

The company continues to seek joint venture partners for its drilling. At the end of 2019 the company completed a joint venture deal with Armstrong Oil and Gas, in which Armstrong obtained a 72% working interest in eight leases covering the Castle West prospect area in NPR-A.

Borealis, a re-brand of earlier company Nordaq Energy, has been focusing its exploration interests on two areas of the North Slope: the northeastern NPR-A and in the more easterly part of the Slope, to the south of the Badami oil field.

The Castle Prospect Trend

In the NPR-A, the Borealis leases lie in what the company terms the Castle Prospect Trend, a series of six individual prospects in the lower Nanushuk formation. These 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. The Castle prospects are directly southwest of Willow. And the Castle East prospect lies in the same sand body as the Harpoon prospect, where ConocoPhillips drilled an exploration well this winter.

Borealis is particularly focusing its attention on drilling in the Castle North prospect, where it has identified four drilling sites. A nearby gravel pad and runway developed for the drilling of the Inigok well in 1978-79 could be used as an operations base for drilling and seismic activities, thus reducing the cost of the drilling project.

Agile Seismic in Houston has now completed the reprocessing of 3-D seismic data for Castle North, Garrard said. The focus of the reprocessing was the shallow rock interval down to the base of the Nanushuk, he said. The reprocessed seismic was used in a Castle North shallow hazards assessment, conducted for Borealis by Fugro. The seismic and the associated assessment revealed a possible hydrocarbon related amplitude anomaly at a shallower depth than the planned exploration target at one of the drill sites, Garrard said.

Planning and permitting started

Because of logistical issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Borealis has had to defer summer field studies of the drill sites until 2021. Meanwhile, Borealis has commissioned Owl Ridge Natural Resource Consultants in Anchorage to start the long lead permitting and planning, to meet a target 2021-22 drilling schedule, Garrard said. Because of the pandemic, the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to temporarily suspend the primary term of the NPR-A leases 100% held by Borealis, he said.

Borealis intends to drill one well, with the possibility of a second appraisal well, depending on the drilling results. If time is available, it may be possible to drill a third well, Garrard said. Drilling depths would be around 4,000 feet.

Borealis has found BLM’s preferred alternative for its new NPR-A integrated activity plan to be encouraging for the future of NPR-A oil exploration, Garrard commented. This is important in encouraging ongoing exploration activities in the area, with the potential to result in more North Slope oil production and the maintenance of throughput in the trans-Alaska pipeline, he said.

The Grey Owl Trend

The Grey Owl Trend, near the ANWR border, also involves prospects in the Brookian rock sequence, the sequence that contains the Nanushuk formation. However, the Grey Owl prospects are in the Canning formation, a rock formation that consists of layered sandstones referred to as turbidites. Unlike the Nanushuk, which was formed on the upper edge of an ancient marine basin, the Canning turbidites were deposited on the basin floor. While the location of the turbidites in the axial region of the basin bodes well for reservoir quality, findings from the West Kavik Unit No. 1 well, drilled by Texaco in 1969, indicate the presence of over-pressured light oil in the Canning at Grey Owl, Garrard said.

The area is just 25 miles south of existing oil infrastructure at Badami.

Currently, WesternGeco is reprocessing some 2-D seismic for the Grey Owl area on a trial basis, to evaluate the possibility of better imaging the Canning reservoirs. If this trial proves successful, Borealis may consider the complete reprocessing of all of the licensed 2-D seismic for the area, Garrard said.


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