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

Vol. 23, No.40 Week of October 07, 2018

Oil Patch Insider: Conoco massing; Sweeney at BIA

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

There is some truth in the rumor that ConocoPhillips Alaska has stepped up hiring. On Oct. 7, company spokesperson Natalie Lowman told Petroleum News, “we are not increasing staff significantly but have been filling some positions as we begin the process to permit the Willow project.”

As previously reported, in a highly upbeat presentation in September, ConocoPhillips Alaska executive Scott Jepsen overviewed his company’s current exploration and development plans in Alaska, and the resulting major uptick in the company’s expectations for its future Alaska oil production, which he referred to as a North Slope renaissance.

An environmental impact statement scoping process is underway for ConocoPhillips’ proposed major Willow project, in the Bear Tooth unit, to the west of Greater Mooses Tooth in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. That development could result in peak production of some 100,000 bpd, with first oil around 2024 to 2025. Initial development of Willow will likely cost $2 billion to $3 billion, with a further $2 billion to $3 billion required for full field development.

Six to eight wells this winter

Jepsen said that following a particularly successful exploration drilling program last winter, in this coming winter’s drilling season the company is planning an aggressive six-to-eight well exploration and appraisal drilling program. At Willow, ConocoPhillips will drill some horizontal wells to better understand the potential productivity from the field, and some vertical wells to test inter-well communication, Jepsen said. The company wants to further delineate the field and to conduct further well tests.

Two other wells will be drilled by the end of the year, testing prospects reachable from existing oil field well pads. One of these is the Cairn prospect in the southwestern corner of the Kuparuk River unit. The other involves the Putu prospect, near the village of Nuiqsut, in what ConocoPhillips terms the Narwhal trend in the Nanushuk formation, to the east of the Colville River.

During last winter’s exploration drilling, ConocoPhillips drilled two wells, the Putu 2 and 2A wells, in the Putu prospect. Those wells, which tested successfully for oil, targeted two distinctive seismic amplitude anomalies, Jepsen explained. But there is a third anomaly, immediately west of the two tested anomalies - the plan for later this year is to drill into this third anomaly from the CD-4 pad in the Colville Delta unit.

Looking further ahead, from 2020 onwards, ConocoPhillips anticipates drilling into that remaining 75 percent of its North Slope prospects that have not yet been tested, Jepsen said.


Alaska’s Tara Sweeney named head of BIA

Former ASRC executive and chairman of the Arctic Economic Council, Republican Tara Sweeney, 45, was quietly sworn in on July 30 as the first Alaska Native to take the helm of the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

No official announcement came from the Trump administration or BIA at that time, but in late September Sweeney’s name and title, “Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs,” appeared on two documents that were published in the Federal Register.

A few days ago photos of Sweeney’s inauguration were released by Interior.

But while Sweeney has been quiet on the public front, she has reportedly been active at BIA in Washington, D.C., where she has been meeting with top staff and, according to indianz.com, “diving deep into the BIA’s organization and structure in advance of her pledge to spend the first few months in the field with Indian Country.”

Sweeney is an Inupiaq who grew up in various rural communities: Noorvik, Wainwright, Bethel, Unalakleet and mainly Barrow. She graduated from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1998.


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