Apache drilling advances, seismic still stalled

Company hopes to finish data campaign in 2013, pinpoint additional exploration wells

After more than a year of gathering seismic data, Apache Oil Corporation will spend 2013 finishing its massive seismic campaign — billed as the largest in Cook Inlet in recent memory — piecing it together and pinpointing where drilling will continue.


Apache Government Relations Manager Lisa Parker said the company has already started drilling its first Cook Inlet well near Tyonek, has amassed hundreds of square miles of seismic data in northern portions of the inlet and on the Peninsula and is still waiting for permits to gather more seismic data.

“Where we drill in 2013 will be dependant upon how long it takes for the seismic data to get compiled and get it to the geologists and geophysicists to analyze it and to determine the best locations to drill,” she said.

In September the company and its seismic operation subcontractor SAExploration finished a portion of its seismic aspirations and ended up with more than 300 square miles of data. That data is spread out on the west side of the inlet from the east forelands area north including portions of Nikiski and up into Tyonek.

“We are in the process of getting that data together and trying to figure out what we’ve got and what might be there and how things look,” Parker said. “The geologists are in the process of putting that into what they call pre-stack data and then cleaning it up and refining it.

“There is so much data that’s been accumulated it’ll take a while to analyze it.”

In mid-November, Parker said Apache started drilling its first well — the Kaldachabuna No. 2 — near Aurora Gas’s Moquawkie and Lone Creek units close to Tyonek.

The company hopes to drill the Kaldachabuna well to a total depth of 12,000 feet by mid-February. Apache is leasing a Patterson-UTI drilling rig that was shipped north from North Dakota’s Bakken formation.

“Our target is oil,” she said.

Parker said it was too early to tell when any oil from the Kaldachabuna well could reach market. Spring and summer flow testing would help determine what, if anything, is in the area, she said.

Any additional drilling in 2013 would likely be onshore. Offshore drilling is plausible, Parker said, because the company has gathered twice as much offshore seismic data as they have onshore. However, Apache is not currently discussing bringing a jack-up rig to the area, she said.

Parker said Apache is still waiting on several federal permits before it can finish seismic testing in areas near Ninilchik, Nikiski north to Point Possession and within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The company made headlines when work it planned to complete halted in mid-September because of stalled federal permits. The only work the company could finish was previously permitted marine seismic in northern portions of the inlet.

“We will not send our seismic contractor back to work until we have the permits we need in order to work,” she said. “Once we have those permits it will take that contractor 60 to 90 days to mobilize his equipment and personnel. We would love to be working today.

“If that program were still going there would be lots of activity.”

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com