Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
July 2017

Vol. 22, No. 27 Week of July 02, 2017

KRU drilling down

ConocoPhillips reducing drilling work at Kuparuk, resuming 1H activities

Eric Lidji

For Petroleum News

ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. plans to reduce Kuparuk River unit drilling work this year.

The local subsidiary of the large international independent plans to drill approximately four new rotary wells and 16 coiled tubing drilling sidetracks at the main Kuparuk oil field this year, according to a recent plan of development. The company drilled eight new rotary wells and 20 coiled tubing drilling sidetracks at the Kuparuk field in 2016 and drilled seven new rotary wells and 20 coiled tubing drilling sidetracks at the field in 2015.

And the company is not making any firm drilling commitments at the four Kuparuk River unit satellites - West Sak, Tarn, Meltwater and Tabasco - this year, aside from the resumption of drilling activities at the previously announced 1H NEWS development.

A year-over-year reduction in drilling and workover activities at the four Kuparuk River unit satellites resulted in a small but notable decline in oil production. The satellites produced 24,900 barrels per day in 2016, down from 26,400 bpd in 2015.

Altogether, the Kuparuk River unit produced 103,000 barrels of oil per day in 2016, down from 104,600 bpd in 2015 and 110,700 bpd in 2014.

The new plan of development covers activity from August 2017 through July 2018.


The annual plan of development for the Kuparuk River unit is broken into five parts: the Kuparuk participating area (the “main” Kuparuk oil field) and the four satellite fields.

The eight new Kuparuk wells were all at the Drill Site 2S development in the southwest of the unit. The 20 new sidetracks were spread throughout the unit, with a cluster of five sidetracks at Drill Site 1H, Drill Site 1G and Drill Site 1B at the eastern edge of the unit; a cluster of four sidetracks at Drill Site 1L at the south of the unit; a cluster of three sidetracks at Drill Site 2M and Drill Site 2K near the 2S development; a cluster of four sidetracks in the north of the unit at Drill Site 3O, Drill Site 3Q, Drill Site 3N and Drill Site 3H; and sidetracks at Drill Site 3G, Drill Site 3F, Drill Site 2X and Drill Site 2B.

The program helped mitigate production declines over the past year. The Kuparuk participating area produced 78,100 bpd in 2016, down slightly from 78,200 bpd in 2015 and down from 83,200 bpd in 2014 and 85,700 bpd in 2013.

ConocoPhillips credited the sidetrack program, which included 55 laterals at the 20 sidetracks, with adding some 3,500 bpd in incremental oil production, similar to the incremental increase in oil production attributed to the 2015 sidetrack campaign.

The company credited a rig workover campaign with adding 1,600 bpd at the Kuparuk participating area and a non-rig workover program with adding an additional 10,700 bpd. By comparison, the 2015 workover program added 6,500 bpd from rigged activities and another 13,200 bpd from non-rig activities.

As of the end of 2016, ConocoPhillips was developing the Kuparuk participating area from 866 active development wells - 471 producers and 395 injectors - at 45 drill sites.

Through 2016, the field had produced 2.41 billion barrels of oil since operations began.

Going forward

ConocoPhillips plans to continue its recent strategy of using horizontal, multi-lateral and coiled tubing drilling sidetracks to access incremental reserves from existing wells.

The company has been selecting candidates using two recent 3-D seismic surveys - the Kuparuk West Sak survey from 2005 and the Western Kuparuk survey from 2011.

One reason for the decline in new drilling activities planned for the coming year is the completion of initial development work at Drill Site 2S. While the company is considering projects that would require new drill sites, it told the state it was not planning to develop any new drill site targeting the Kuparuk A and C sands before July 2018.

The company is also continuing its “infrastructure-led exploration” strategy, where it chooses potential developments near existing wells or available infrastructure. The strategy led directly to the development of Drill Site 2S in the southwest of the unit.

But the company is slowing the pace of some recent infrastructure-led exploration.

Over the past two years, ConocoPhillips drilled three wells into the Moraine interval at the Kuparuk River unit, including a pilot project from the paired 3S-620 producer and 3S-613 injector wells. “Results from special core analyses and reservoir performance from the 3S-620 producer well and 3S-613 injector well will guide future development plans for the Moraine interval,” the company told state officials, as it had in its previous plan of development, but offered no firm plans to conduct Moraine activities this year.

West Sak

West Sak is the largest of the four Kuparuk River unit satellites.

By the end of 2016, ConocoPhillips had drilled approximately 122 wells at the West Sak satellite from Drill Sites 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1J and 3K. The company was operating 112 active wells - 58 producers, 52 water injectors and two water-alternating-gas injectors.

West Sak produced 13,701 barrels of oil and 13.9 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2016, down from 13,865 barrels of oil and 13.9 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2015.

ConocoPhillips did not drill any development wells at West Sak in 2016, focusing instead on “surveillance and optimization of existing wells,” according to the development plan.

For the current year, the company is planning to “focus on existing developments” while studying a range of potential future developments. The largest project is the planned resumption of activities at the 19-well Drill Site 1H NEWS development. The company placed the project on hold last year after completing major infrastructure construction.

The company is also studying potential West Sak developments at the existing Drill Site 1D, 1C, 3K and 3N. The 1C program could include three new development wells at “lower-value” targets. The 3K and 3N programs will most likely be developed in phases.

The company is using recent drilling activities in the region to study a “potential major multi-well” Eastern NEWS development, which would require a new drill site.

The company is also considering potential Drill Site 3R development, which could require an expansion of the existing Drill Site 3R. Earlier this year, the company drilled and completed a pair of pilot wells - the 3R-101 producer and 3R-102 injector - at Drill Site 3R. The company is evaluating the project using a recently completed 3D seismic survey over 47 square miles in the northern end of the unit. The company acquired and licensed the survey in mid-2014 and processed a portion of the survey during 2016.


By the end of 2016, ConocoPhillips had drilled 77 wells at the Tarn satellite from Drill Sites 2L and 2N and was operating 63 active wells - 39 producers and 24 injectors.

Tarn produced 8,400 barrels of oil and 16.7 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2016, down from 9,300 barrels of oil and 20.7 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2015.

After conducting a nine-well program in 2014 and a five-well program in 2015, the company did not drill at Tarn in 2016 but performed a workover to restore production from the 2N-333 well. The company is not planning any development drilling for this year and has no firm plans for future exploration in the Purple or Cairn intervals.


By the end of 2016, ConocoPhillips had drilled 19 wells at the Meltwater satellite from Drill Site 2P and was operating 16 active wells - nine producers and seven injectors.

Meltwater produced 1,326 barrels of oil and 10 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2016, down from 1,569 barrels of oil and 11.3 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2015.

The company did not drill any wells or sidetracks at the Meltwater satellite in 2016 and is not planning any wells or sidetracks this year. The company is evaluating a 2008 seismic acquisition to determine candidates for sidetracking or producer-to-injector conversion.

The company is not planning any exploration into the Cairn or Bermuda intervals.

The company completed two pigging operations at the Drill Site 2P produced oil line in 2016 and has scheduled future pigging activities at six-month to 12-month intervals.


By the end of 2016, ConocoPhillips had drilled 12 wells at the Tabasco satellite from Drill Site 2T and was operating five active wells - four producers and one injector. One producer was taken offline in 2016 due to a failed electronic submersible pump motor.

Tabasco produced 1,430 barrels of oil and 222,000 cubic feet of gas per day in 2016, down from 1,619 barrels of oil and 265,000 cubic feet of gas per day in 2015.

The company did not drill at the satellite in 2016 and is not planning to drill this year, but the company said work continues to identify potential locations for development wells. The company is also not planning any exploration activities at the satellite this year.

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