New home: Nikiski

Spartan 151 jack-up rig arrives in northeast inlet waters

The Spartan 151 jack-up rig brought north by Escopeta Oil and Gas sailed by Kenai Wednesday enroute to its drilling site.

Company spokesman Steve Sutherlin said the rig was expected to arrive at the Kitchen Lights Unit by early Wednesday evening. That unit is an area of offshore oil and gas leases in the middle of Cook Inlet, northeast of Nikiski.

Drilling will likely begin next week.

First, the company will do a side-scan sonar to see what is on the bottom of the ocean and make sure nothing is going to interfere with the rig. Sutherlin said the company has already done that preliminary testing, but will do it again to make sure it has up-to-date results.

If all is clear, the legs will be run down to the ground and the rig will come up out of the water. Then Escopeta will preload the rig to make sure it's completely stable, Sutherlin said.

The rig was tugged north from Vancouver British Columbia by Foss Maritime. Sutherlin said the company expected the tugs to stay near the jack-up until the rig is stabilized. That likely won't take too long.

"They could be released tomorrow," Sutherlin said Wednesday.

Then the pre-drilling work begins to prepare the site, and drilling will follow in about a week.

This batch of drilling is to determine what the well can produce, and whether there's enough of that resource to continue working on the well.

"We'll know by this fall," Sutherlin said. "We'll have some idea if we have a discovery at all."

Once Escopeta knows if there is a discovery, the company would likely drill a delineation well. That well would help determine what resource could be developed and the best way to access it. But it won't happen immediately.

"That would be next season," Sutherlin said.

The first well isn't the company's only prospect. Escopeta is planning a multiwell drilling program for the inlet.

Sutherlin said earlier this week that the rig is here to stay.

"We plan to keep it here for eight years, possibly more," Sutherlin said.

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