Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
July 2018

Vol. 23, No.29 Week of July 22, 2018

Oil Search ANC staff up to 50; might build development rigs

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

The ASX-listed independent Oil Search Ltd. that acquired Armstrong Energy interests in and operatorship of part of the largest Alaska oil discovery in decades is up to approximately 50 employees in the Anchorage office it took over from Armstrong, having announced in April 2018 it was shooting for 110 Alaska employees.

“We have around 50 OSL staff already; we have fully renovated the third floor and a small area of the second floor. We will have capacity for circa 120 persons,” Keiran Wulff, the company’s top Alaska executive told Petroleum News July 17.

The publicly traded Oil Search with offices in Sydney, Australia, and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, acquired the huge Pikka and Horseshoe oil prospects from Armstrong and its minority partner in October 2017.

Oil Search has been conducting interviews in Anchorage, looking for engineers, geologists and other professionals with North Slope experience to help them tackle the giant Nanushuk oil discovery that had been drilled through but ignored by Alaska majors until Denver-based Armstrong came along. (See “Looking at it again, Nanushuk/Torok discoveries push a rethink of North Slope oil potential” in the June 6, 2018, edition of Petroleum News.)

Wulff addressed a rumor that Oil Search was looking at building its own development rigs, although whether it actually happens won’t be decided until 2019.

It’s “still under consideration whether we build, buy or use existing rigs for the development. This decision won’t be made until next year,” he said.

When asked the status of its seismic reprocessing and whether Oil Search has decided where it wants to drill next winter, Wulff said, “We will be undertaking a major reprocessing and integration of all data sets to standardize the data. We have decided what we will drill already and are having discussions with partners and external parties.”

Partnering on hold

At the time of its $400 million acquisition, Oil Search had said it had an option through June 30, 2019, to acquire an even larger interest in the project for an additional $450 million. At that point it would likely bring in another partner, although the company would continue to view Armstrong as a partner.

When asked July 17 about “the status of bringing in another partner, if indeed it is still part of your plans,” Wulff said: “We are focused on getting the project moving forward understanding the full potential and preparing for the program. We are not progressing partnering at this stage.”


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