Point Thomson-TAPS connection complete


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After a second winter construction season, the connection between the Point Thomson gas field east of Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was completed this March. ExxonMobil expects to be producing 10,000 barrels of condensates per day into TAPS by 2016 from Point Thomson. The total project will cost about $4 billion.

Photo/Courtesy/ExxonMobil

At Point Thomson, it is $2 billion dollars down and $2 billion to go for ExxonMobil.

Sofia Wong, the Point Thomson infrastructure and pipeline manager for ExxonMobil, said a pipeline connecting the eastern North Slope gas field to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, or TAPS, was completed in March.

The 12-inch, 22-mile pipeline will carry natural gas condensates to the Badami field line that is a common carrier to TAPS, she said.

“Our expectation is by 2016 we will be starting to produce at 10,000 barrels per day (of condensates) into TAPS,” Wong said.

A hydro test will likely be run on the pipe in July.

The pipeline has a capacity of 70,000 barrels per day. Early production will be slow with three wells — two injector wells and one production — until it’s known how the gas reserve responds to production, she said.

Point Thomson is about 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The natural gas field is estimated to hold roughly 8 trillion cubic feet of gas, roughly 25 percent of total North Slope gas reserves. The gas also contains about 200 million barrels of usable liquids. It was originally discovered in 1977.

Unlike Prudhoe Bay gas, the Point Thomson field is under high pressure, Wong said, making it easy to capture the liquids for TAPS.

“When you get gas at 10,000 pounds and you let it expand into separators, the condensate, the liquids just simply fall out and you collect those and put them into the pipeline,” she said. “(It’s) very simple from a process standpoint.”

The gas processing facility will arrive at Point Thomson via barge along with summer in 2015. The four-piece modular plant is currently being constructed in Korea, according to Wong.

To date, ExxonMobil has spent about $2 billion on Point Thomson. The major producer expects to spend a total of about $4 billion on the project to get it to full production, the company has said.

During the winter of 2012-13, the first construction season for ExxonMobil at Point Thomson, about 2,200 vertical supports were installed for the pipeline.

Nearly all of the pipeline construction work was done by a subsidiary of Interior Alaska Native corporation Doyon Ltd., Wong said.

The peak of just-completed winter construction at Point Thomson saw about 1,200 people working on the project, she said, similar to the first-year job numbers. Of those, 729 were rotational Slope positions, meaning some were backed by an additional laborer.

Wong said ExxonMobil has a camp of about 100 workers in Deadhorse managing logistics. Overall, Alaska-hire rates on Point Thomson are in the 85 percent range, she said.

Other major work last winter included laying another 1 million cubic yards of gravel to expand the site pad to the north on top of the 1 million cubic yards laid during the first construction season.

Over the summer, 2.2 million gallons of diesel storage was added to the site, Wong said. Completion of a warehouse and Alaska Clean Seas maintenance facility is scheduled for this year’s warmer months.

The infrastructure at Point Thomson will go a long ways towards spurring future North Slope gas development, particularly since the State of Alaska, the three major Slope producers, and TransCanada, a pipeline company, have agreed on a framework of ownership for a large export liquefied natural gas project, she said.

“Point Thomson has been key to the progress we’ve made on the large (LNG) project,” Wong said.

If the $40 billion to $65 billion project ever comes to fruition, she said another $6 billion to $8 billion of investment will be needed at Point Thomson to capture the gas there and would be part of the overall expenditure. She said that investment would include a 30-inch gas line connected to a treatment plant in Prudhoe Bay.

“It’s the 8 trillion cubic feet of gas that we’re focusing on; that’s really what I call the prize,” Wong said. “The condensate that comes along with that is just gravy that comes on top of the natural gas.”

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

 

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