Ahtna starts drilling at Tolsona
Ahtna Inc. has started drilling the Tolsona No. 1 exploration well about 11.5 miles west of the town of Glennallen in the Copper River basin, the company said Sept. 29. The well is seeking natural gas in the Nelchina sandstone at depths of between 4,000 and 5,000 feet. The intent is to find a viable gas resource to alleviate the high cost of energy in the Copper Valley region. Ahtna is the Native corporation for the region.
Ahtna is using the Saxon 147 drilling rig on a gravel pad constructed about a mile north of the Glenn Highway.
The region where the drilling is taking place is known to be gas prone. A previous exploration well, the Ahtna 1-19, drilled about 2 miles east of the Tolsona well between 2005 and 2007, encountered gas but eventually had to be abandoned because of exceptionally high formation pressures and problems with water encroachment. Ahtna said that for this new drilling venture it is putting in place mitigation measures for dealing with potential high subsurface pressures. For example, the drilling team will start with a small pilot hole to a depth of about 1,100 feet before setting the first concrete castings, Ahtna said.
Exploration licenseThe drilling is being conducted in state land under the terms of a state exploration license. Ahtna identified its drilling target with the help of seismic that the corporation shot in late 2014, combined with the reprocessing of some older seismic data.
“The 40-miles of 2-D seismic exploration that we performed in 2014 showed positive data and we are fortunate to have been able to learn from the experiences of those that have previously explored the area. It has allowed us to be proactive in putting plans and contingencies in place with the efficiency of the operation and safety of staff in mind,” said Ahtna President Michelle Anderson. “We have some exceptional talent working on this project and it’s inspiring to see the progression of the drilling program.”
In addition to the potential access to a source of natural gas for the region, Ahtna sees its exploration project as a vehicle for employment in the Copper River region. The corporation has said, for example, that all of the project staff are Alaskans and that many of the people who worked on the construction of the pad and access road needed for the drilling were Ahtna Native shareholders. And presumably any gas development that results from the exploration drilling would involve some level of local hire.
With the economics of the drilling project involving the use of state tax credits, the extension of the credits available for use in the “Middle Earth” region of Alaska, including the Copper River basin, made the drilling possible, Ahtna has said.
- ALAN BAILEY