More Nanushuk exploration set with $15M test well

  • A consortium of independents are teaming up to drill promising leases in the Nanushuk formation that has produced several large discoveries in the last three years. (Map/Courtesy/88 Energy)

A consortium of small oil explorers is ready to test the extent of a suddenly attractive North Slope oil formation.

The state Division of Oil and Gas approved Great Bear Petroleum’s plan to drill the Winx-1 exploration well Dec. 14.

Anchorage-based independent Great Bear is partnered with Australian explorers 88 Energy, Red Emperor Resources and Otto Energy to drill the well estimated to cost roughly $15 million, according to company filings with the state.

The Winx-1 well will be 13 miles due south of the Village of Nuiqsut and about 5 miles east of the Horseshoe well and sidetrack Armstrong Energy drilled into the shallow Nanushuk formation in early 2017.

The Horseshoe well extended the prospective Nanushuk formation play more than 20 miles south of the Pikka Unit — in which Spanish major Repsol also holds a significant position — and Armstrong estimates holds roughly 1.2 billion barrels of primarily Nanushuk-sourced oil.

CEO Bill Armstrong said when the Horseshoe results were announced that the well is a strong indicator that the Nanushuk resource in the area could be double what is known in the Pikka Unit.

Oil Search Ltd. is now developing the Pikka Unit.

Slope geologists generally believe the Nanushuk prospect to be a western Slope phenomenon and exploratory drilling has mostly been west of the initial discovery at Pikka.

However, 3-D seismic data indicates the area where the Winx well will be drilled could hold 400 million barrels of Nanushuk oil, according to a prior 88 Energy release.

The work schedule approved by the Division of Oil and Gas calls for the companies to build ice roads and pads to the drill site through January, with drilling to start in mid-February.

Great Bear Chief Commercial Officer Pat Galvin said in a brief interview that the work is on schedule and is being managed by wholly-owned 88 Energy subsidiary Captivate Alaska LLC.

Work will wrap up in late April or along with the end of the Slope ice season.

Plans are to drill Winx-1 to 12,000 feet using Nordic-Calista Services Nordic No. 3 rig.

Armstrong said the Nanushuk oil his company encountered to the north was primarily less than 5,000 feet deep.

“The Nanushuk is the primary target and there isn’t a plan to test other zones but sometimes you hit things you don’t expect,” Galvin said.

Great Bear and 88 Energy are also continuing work on separate projects along the Dalton Highway south of the developed area of the North Slope.

Galvin said Great Bear is preparing to test its Alkaid-1 well drilled in 2015 later this winter. The well is looking for conventional oil targets, he added.

Great Bear had previously been focused on unconventional oil prospects on the southern flank of the Slope.

88 Energy is finished with testing its unconventional Icewine-2 well on the southern Slope, which targeted the HRZ shale formation. A late December project update from 88 Energy Director David Wall said the company is working with consultant Baker Hughes and the U.S. Geological Survey on new hydraulic fracturing testing methods to evaluate its wells.

While they are small oil companies, 88 Energy and Great Bear hold significant positions on the Slope. Combined, they have an interest in more than 650,000 acres, most of which is along the Dalton Highway south of Deadhorse, where they have focused on unconventional oil exploration.


Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

01/02/2019 - 9:33am