Drilling starts for 1H NEWS
Drilling in ConocoPhillips’ 1H NEWS development in the Kuparuk River unit began in the week of Aug. 7, ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Natalie Lowman has confirmed to Petroleum News. The new development targets the production of viscous oil from the northeastern sector of the West Sak formation in the unit, using wells drilled from the Kuparuk 1H drill site. ConocoPhillips anticipates the $460 million project will result in peak production of 8,000 barrels of oil per day. First oil from the development is planned for later this year, Lowman said.
The development has involved the construction of a nine-acre extension to the existing 1H site, as well as surface facilities to support four new pentalateral production wells and 15 injection wells, Lowman said. The surface facilities include a new pipe header, wellhead infrastructure, modules, tanks and tie-ins to the existing pipeline infrastructure. A pentalateral well has five lateral wells extending horizontally from a main well bore.
Permitting of the 1H NEWS development began in February 2014, with ConocoPhillips approving the funding for the development in early 2015.
Technical challengesRetrieving difficult-to-flow, viscous oil from the unconsolidated sands of the West Sak is challenging. Over the years ConocoPhillips and BP, which produces viscous oil from the equivalent Schrader Bluff formation in the adjacent Prudhoe Bay unit, have honed the techniques required for viable viscous oil production.
Techniques that originally involved the use of hydraulic fracturing combined with downhole pumps have evolved over the years into an approach in which multilateral, horizontal production wells thread through the reservoir sands, and in which downhole pump designs have evolved. Injector wells drive oil into the producers. Water has been used as the injection fluid, although in 2016 ConocoPhillips obtained approval from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for the use of a viscous reducing water-alternating-gas injection technique.
Given the technical difficulties involved in viscous oil production, economically viable production may also be challenging in an era of relatively low oil prices. However, ConocoPhillips and the other Kuparuk working interest owners feel confident that the 1H NEWS development will prove profitable.
“Despite low oil prices, this is a project that ConocoPhillips and its co-owners believe is a viable investment,” Lowman said.
- ALAN BAILEY