Natural gas find may pay off soon

Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A gas find by Marathon Oil Company in a well at West Fork north of Sterling may start bringing gas to the Kenai Peninsula later this year.

The well was drilled last year, said Ben Schoffmann, operations superintendent for the Alaska asset team for Marathon.

Tests conducted by the company show the well may produce between 5 million and 7 million cubic feet of gas per day, Schoffmann said.

That rate is pretty typical of what the company might expect for new wells in its existing fields, he wrote in an e-mail to the Clarion.

The actual amount of gas cannot be determined until the well starts producing, he said.

"What we really want to do is try and put it in production," he said.

The well is close to the Enstar pipeline system. Schoffmann said it may be possible to use previous infrastructure to hook it up to that system. The next step, he said, is to determine what production facilities are needed to allow that field to start producing cost effectively.

West Fork was a gas-producing field in the past. The gas came from shallow wells and was discovered while searching for oil, Schoffmann said.

Rising gas prices are providing incentives to companies, like Marathon, to explore in areas that were not previously profitable to produce gas, he said. In some instances, this includes drilling deeper for gas in old fields.

Almost all of Marathon's operations in the Cook Inlet basin are gas production.

"I hope that this is the first of many wells they drill in that area that will be good producers," said Bill Popp, oil, gas and mining liaison for the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

In addition to West Fork, Marathon also drilled a well in Kasilof last year and found gas, Schoffmann said. The company is considering similar production options to the ones being considered for the West Fork well, he wrote. However, the Kasilof well will require an extension to the existing pipeline infrastructure, which may pose a challenge, he wrote.

Marathon also is considering gas exploration options in what is known as the East Swanson River prospect, which was covered in a recently approved environmental impact statement, he wrote.

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