First test drilling under way on North Slope shale oil project
Anchorage, Alaska (Platts)--29Jun2012/210 pm EDT/1810 GMT
Alaska-based independent Great Bear Petroleum is now drilling its first
North Slope test well to assess the potential for production of oil from shale
formations in the region, similar to the way oil is being produced in the
Bakken and Eagle Ford shale formations of the Lower 48 states, the president
of Great Bear said Friday.
The company's first well is being drilled about 15 miles south of the
Prudhoe Bay field on the North Slope, said Ed Duncan, Great Bear's president.
The first core samples will be taken this weekend.
"We intend to take cores from three shale formations the well will
penetrate," Duncan said.
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It will take about three more weeks for the well to reach its planned
target depth of about 10,500 feet, he said. The company will then move its
rig, Nabors 105, operated by Nabors Alaska Drilling Co., to a second location
about 3 miles south, then to locations further south, Duncan said.
Normally, North Slope exploration wells are drilled in winter on ice
pads but Great Bear is working this summer using previously built gravel pads
adjacent to the Dalton Highway, a road connecting oil fields in the area to
"Our plan is to drill four wells this year and we believe we can achieve
at least three," he said. The company will also do a multistage fracturing of
the shale to test the flow of oil, Duncan said.
Halliburton has joined Great Bear as a partner in the North Slope shale
test but Duncan declined to describe the nature of the companies'
relationship. He did say Halliburton is "participating" in the current tests
but that Great Bear is the operator of the project.
The shale formations being tested by Great Bear are the source rocks for
the large conventional oil fields a few miles north, including the giant
Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk, Alpine and other fields that are now producing.
If the 2012 tests of the shale are successful, Duncan said the plan for
2013 is to drill several wells in a production pad along with a pilot
processing facility. Oil produced would be shipped to Prudhoe Bay by truck
and injected into the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.
Robert Swenson, Alaska's state geologist and director of the Division of
Geophysical and Geological Survey, said he believes substantial amounts of oil
remain in the source rocks.
Paul Decker, chief of the resource evaluation section in the state
Division of Oil and Gas, said in a recent presentation that Great Bear must
test the brittleness of the North Slope shale to see whether it will fracture
like shales in the Bakken and Eagle Ford, and also test the permeability of
the rock and how easy fluids can flow.
--Tim Bradner, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, email@example.com