Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
April 2019

Vol. 24, No.17 Week of April 28, 2019

Oil patch insider: Some Nanushuk oil online; plug-in summons from Chugach Electric

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

The Brookian Nanushuk formation has taken the spotlight in Alaska since early 2016 when Bill Armstrong and his partners began hinting at having made a huge oil discovery during a multi-year exploration program starting in 2012 in their Pikka unit west of the central North Slope. The Nanushuk quickly acquired a reputation as something of a new kid on the block - an as-of-yet undeveloped oil play, overlooked in the past, but now known as an accumulation with sizeable discoveries such Pikka, Horseshoe and Willow.

And while it is true that Armstrong Energy, Repsol, GMT Exploration and their newest partner, Oil Search, operator of Pikka and Horseshoe, will likely go into production with the first major Nanushuk development (120,000 barrels of oil per day) in 2023, followed by ConocoPhillips’ Willow project (100,000 bpd) in 2024-25, at least one, small North Slope Nanushuk oil pool has been in production since 2008.

ConocoPhillips Alaska has been producing the light, relatively shallow, crude from its Colville River unit via Alpine satellite Qannik. Currently, the unit is producing about 53,100 bpd, with the Qannik reservoir contributing approximately 1,700 bpd of that from the Nanushuk accumulation, utilizing the Colville Delta No. 2 gravel pad. (In the state of Alaska’s most recent production forecast, the Colville unit, including Alpine, Fiord, Nanuq, Qannik, Fiord West and BRPC’s Mustang field which is not yet online, will average 58,400 bpd in FY 2019 and 70,600 bpd in FY 2020.)

The Alpine oil field is some 35 miles west of the Kuparuk River unit on the eastern border of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. CD2 is three miles west of the Alpine Central Facility where Qannik oil is processed.

Qannik is the third Alpine satellite to go online, tapping just 5,000 acres of its 18,114-acre participating area with nine horizontal wells, six of those operating as producers and three as water injectors.

The Qannik/Nanushuk accumulation was tested for 19 days in June 2006 in the CD2-404 exploration well, which was eventually converted to a producer. Average output was 1,200 barrels per day of 30-degree API gravity oil from a 25-foot thick sandstone at 4,000 feet subsea overlying Alpine sands. The Alpine accumulation, at 40 degrees API gravity, is a lighter oil.

Erec Isaacson, ConocoPhillips Alaska’s vice president of exploration and land at the time, told Petroleum News that the company had basically been drilling through Qannik to reach the deeper Alpine accumulation. They had seen the Nanushuk accumulation on logs, he said, and used exploration dollars to go in and put in a well to test it, producing some oil that summer and the going online permanently in 2008.

Although the Nanuq No. 1 well encountered the Qannik oil pool as early as 1996, ConocoPhillips’s predecessor ARCO believed the reservoir was too tight and too thin to be productive using technology available at the time.


Qannik, the name given to the accumulation by ConocoPhillips, means snowflake in the local Inupiat language. The actual geologic term is Nanushuk 2, which the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas geologists usually simply refer to as the Nanushuk.

According to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the oil occurs in a stratigraphic trap in fine-grained Cretaceous sandstone on an ancient marine shelf, age-equivalent to the Nanushuk Group of the central North Slope. Shales and siltstones of the Torok formation above and below the Nanushuk/Qannik sandstone confine the oil within the pool.

More Qannik oil

Qannik production is about to change with the division’s recent approval of the Colville River unit’s ninth expansion (see related story in this issue). The “shallower Brookian reservoir intervals in the proposed expansion acreage” refers in part to the Qannik/Nanushuk.

Last year, the division approved a request from ConocoPhillips to amend its plan of operation for the Colville unit to drill up to six new Qannik wells and install facilities as needed at the CD 2 pad.

Engineering, design and permitting of the 5.3-acre CD2 pad expansion was completed in 2018, along with gravel bring hauled in. The drill site expansion, adding a total 21 well slots, will be done this year, ready for startup in Q1 2020, ConocoPhillips has said.

Three existing well slots, never used on the CD2 Qannik well row, will be available for a new ultra-extended reach drilling rig, and three additional slots will be added to the CD2 Qannik well row.

ConocoPhillips has commissioned the new Doyon Drilling ERD rig, which will be able to drill out to a distance of more than 37,000 feet, allowing access to 154 square miles of subsurface from a 14-acre drilling pad. The company plans to use this rig to develop its Fiord West prospect, in the northwest corner of the Colville River unit, from the existing CD2 well pad.

The new rig is expected to be delivered and working by early 2020.

How much more oil Qannik will produce as a result of all these activities is not known, but they bode well for the North Slope’s first Nanushuk producing field.


Chugach seeks hosts

The April Chugach Electric Association Outlet newsletter featured a photo of a Chugach electric car, along with a query to businesses to plug in: “Chugach is seeking three businesses to install and host electric vehicle charging stations at shopping areas, hotel or entertainment areas, and parking lots,” the utility wrote.

Applications are due May 10. More information is available at chugachelectric.com.

Chugach Electric is headquartered in Anchorage, which sits at the base of the Chugach Mountains.

The word “Chugach” comes from an Alaska Native name, which the Russians recorded as “Chugatz” or “Tchougatskoi.” In 1898, U.S. Army Capt. W.R. Abercrombie spelled the name “Chugatch” and applied it to the mountains.

Chugach Electric’s corporate vision: Responsibly developing energy to build a clean, sustainable future for Alaska.


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