Shell restarts work in Chukchi; Apache takes delivery of rig

Shell has resumed work at the Burger-A exploration well in Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast.

The drillship Noble Discoverer was brought back to the well location the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23 after waiting almost a week for a massive, slow-moving ice floe to move over the site, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.

Work had started on a bottom excavation for a blowout preventer Sept 16 but after less than a day the ship had to be moved away because of the ice floe moving toward it.

Meanwhile, another drill vessel, the Kulluk, “is still on standby” Sept. 25 in the eastern Alaska Beaufort Sea. Shell had agreed to hold off on drilling in the Beaufort until local Inupiat Eskimo whalers had completed their fall whale hunt.

Shell said earlier that the Kulluk may be moved near the well location.

The company has permission from the U.S. Interior Department to do preparation work on the top of the wells including setting the blowout preventer and drilling and installing casing to about 1,400 feet. However, the company does not yet have permission to drill deeper to hydrocarbon-bearing zones at about 7,500 feet to 8,000 total depth.

The company gave up hopes for drilling completed wells to the oil-bearing zones after equipment on an oil spill response barge needed to be at the site was damaged in a test in Puget Sound, in the Pacific Northwest.

The damage could not be repaired in time to get the barge to the Arctic. Under Interior Department rules Shell cannot drill all the way down to the target depth of the wells until the response barge is on the scene. That will now be next year.

However, the completion of “top hole” work on the exploration wells will give the company a jump-start in completing the wells in 2013, Shell officials have said.

Apache takes delivery of drill rig for Cook Inlet exploration

Apache Corp. has taken delivery of drilling rig brought to Alaska by truck from North Dakota and plans to begin drilling the company’s first Cook Inlet exploration well in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The well, an onshore test, will be on the west side of the Inlet near Tyonek, a small Alaska Native village, Apache’s general manager, John Hendrix, told an oil and gas conference in Anchorage.

“We are targeting oil, but we believe we will find natural gas as well,” Hendrix said at the Alaska Oil and Gas Congress meeting held Sept. 17 through Sept. 20.

The rig brought north is the Patterson-UTI rig, which was previously working in the Bakken oil shale development, Hendrix said.

Apache has largely concluded a multi-year 300-square-mile 3D survey across the Cook Inlet Basin that began in 2011. The marine segment across the Inlet is now being completed along with remaining parts of the survey on the Kenai Peninsula, on the Inlet’s east side.

Analyses of the seismic data under way now will result in additional well targets identified by the end of the year, Hendrix said.

Cook Inlet has seen a renaissance of exploration in recent years with Hilcorp Energy purchasing producing asset from Chevron Corp. last year and new offshore exploration planned by independents Buccaneer Energy; Furie Operating Alaska; Cook Inlet Energy and NordAq Energy.

Updated: 
11/11/2016 - 1:29pm