Unocal ponders drilling options near Ninilchik

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- Unocal could drill up to six exploratory natural gas wells near Ninilchik in the coming year, according to company officials.

The work is contingent on the results of seismic surveys, budget considerations and permitting, said Roxanne Sinz of Unocal.

Unocal already has begun applying for permits to drill two wells just north of Ninilchik near Mile 131.8 on the Sterling Highway, and two wells about seven miles east of Ninilchik. The wells would target the Tyonek gas sands and could reach 11,200 feet below the surface.

In December, Unocal, Enstar and Homer Electric Association agreed to study the feasibility of building a 75-mile gas pipeline from Kenai to Homer. Spurs would carry gas to customers and pick up gas from fields along the route. Alaska Electric Generation and Transmission Inc., mostly owned by HEA, would own the main line, expected to cost about $45 million. Unocal would ship gas through it. Enstar would build and operate retail distribution spurs.

The project could give the central Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage access to south peninsula gas, and also give southern peninsula residents their initial connection to the popular fuel. The pipeline and gas exploration projects are interrelated, Sinz said.

Unocal is presently conducting seismic surveys along the coast from Ninilchik nearly to Clam Gulch. The field work should be done by May 15, Sinz said, and the results should be analyzed within about two months.

''From there, the drill or no-drill decision depends on final budget approval,'' she said.

Unocal should decide by Aug. 31 which wells to drill and when. The work could begin this fall. Papers filed with the state suggest drilling and well testing could last 18 months at each site.

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