Aurora looks for gas

Houston firm begins seismic testing program

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2003

Searching for natural gas, Houston-based Aurora Gas has begun an aggressive seismic testing program on the west side of Cook Inlet near Tyonek.

Andy Clifford, executive vice president of exploration, said Thursday from Houston that the company is reacting to the shortage of natural gas in Southcentral Alaska.

"That is all we are focused on in Cook Inlet," he said.

Following its recent acquisition of ConocoPhillips' Moquawkie Field interests north and east of Tyonek and all of Anadarko's Cook Inlet lease holdings, the company is "preparing for an active year in Cook Inlet, Alaska," Clifford said in a press release.

Aurora announced it had awarded a seismic acquisition contract to Fairweather Veritas DGC of Anchorage, which will conduct the upcoming 3D seismic program. Seismic testing will be done on 12 square miles on the Nicolai Creek gas field west of Tyonek and on 16 square miles at the Moquawkie prospect, Clifford said.

Aurora considers this an aggressive venture, he noted.

"No one has ever seen fit to do it before," he said, largely because of the expense.

But the company plans to bring in what Clifford called "state-of-the-art" technology, gear that is taken for granted in the Lower 48, but may be rare in Cook Inlet.

"Only Marathon is a co-leader in Cook Inlet," he said. "We like to say we are following suit in bringing the latest technology to bear."

The seismic testing involves putting down a dense grid of "shallow explosive charges," which will be recorded by special receivers to give the company a detailed analysis of the subsurface.

The company will be looking particularly at shallow pockets of gas about 2,000 to 3,500 feet down.

"This will be the most extensive 3D program yet undertaken on the west side of Cook Inlet and will involve the first-ever multi-component 3D survey in the basin," Clifford said. "Depending on the results of this work, Aurora plans to acquire more 3D in 2004."

In the past, environmental groups have expressed some concern that seismic testing may endanger creatures in the area. Clifford said, however, Aurora is trying to have minimal impact.

"We see this as low-impact seismic," he said. "We have all the permits. We will have as little impact on the environment as we possibly can."

Although the company now holds about 100,000 acres, it continues to search for new opportunities, "particularly for onshore gas prospects," he said.

Aurora Gas LLC has been capitalized by a group of private investors, Clifford said.

According to a recent article in the Oil and Gas Reporter, that group includes Aurora-KF, LLC, and Affiliate of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company of Tulsa, and COSCO Capital Management, LLC, of New York City.

"We are an early-stage independent is how I'd describe us," he said. "We have $25 million in capital to help us develop the Moquawkie and Nicolai Creek fields."

Aurora already has completed a few development wells, Clifford said. One went on line in late 2001 and two more last fall near the Shirleyville airstrip.

"We plan one more development well in the spring," he said. "Then, depending on the 3D seismic, at least one more development well."

He said a couple of shut-in wells also may be developed.

The company also is developing the Lone Creek Pipeline, a six-mile pipe from the Lone Creek No. 1 well to the Beluga Pipeline. Work on that should be completed in a month or two, Clifford said.

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