Big jack-up rig may be heading to Cook Inlet

AP Photo/National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand 2008

Pacific Energy Resources Ltd. has notified the state of Alaska that it has signed a contract for a heavy-lift vessel to move the Blake 151 jack-up rig to Cook Inlet to drill offshore exploration wells.

The company hopes to have the rig in place for the 2009 summer drilling season.

The contract for the rig was signed with Blake Offshore LLC earlier this year but getting a suitable vessel to move the rig from the Gulf of Mexico has taken the company longer than expected, said Kevin Banks, director of the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas.

The state is considering an extension of Pacific Energy’s Corsair Unit in Cook Inlet, and the contract to bring the jack-up rig to the inlet is a condition to the extension, Banks said. The division is examining the contract and will make a decision to approve the unit extension in a few days.

Pacific Energy will share the costs of bringing the rig north with Renaissance Alaska LLC, another independent company with leases in Cook Inlet.

Renaissance would use the rig to drill its Northern Lights prospect, an offshore area in the inlet where there are confirmed showings of oil from old exploration wells, said Mark Landt, a Renaissance official.

Banks said companies have found several prospects for oil and gas in Cook Inlet with the benefit of new technologies, like three-dimension seismic, that were not available to the industry in early rounds of exploration in the 1960s and 1970s.

Exploration has been stymied, however, by the lack of suitable drilling equipment capable of drilling in areas too far to drill with extended-reach wells from shore.

Cook Inlet is a mature producing area with three decades of production, but state geologists believe the area has not been sufficiently explored, Banks said.

Pacific Energy, Renaissance and other independents have been working for several years on plans to share costs to get a jack-up rig to Alaska. A key obstacle was the U.S. Jones Act, a federal law that requires shipments between U.S. ports to be done with American-built vessels.

There are no U.S.-built heavy-lift vessels capable of carrying a jack-up rig, however. The problem was solved last year when Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens secured a one-time exemption from the Jones Act for a foreign-built heavy-lift vessel to move the Blake 151 to Alaska.

Updated: 
11/09/2016 - 1:12pm