The massive pieces of Cook Inlet's first new offshore oil platform since 1986 are expected to arrive in Homer this morning, en route for assembly in Port Graham.
"I've worked here since 1968," said John Amundsen, manager of health, environment and safety for Forcenergy Inc. in Anchorage. "Everybody you run into is talking about the excitement of this new operation, because it has the possibility of extending the life of the other facilities on Cook Inlet."
Officials with Miami-based Forcenergy plan to install Osprey, a $35 million exploratory platform, on Redoubt Shoal in July. Permit applications to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest the Redoubt Shoal prospect could produce up to 25,000 barrels of oil and 4.3 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. That would nearly double the inlet's present oil production of roughly 32,000 barrels per day.
"It could be a pretty big deal," said Ken Boyd, director of the state Division of Oil and Gas. "The big thing is, will they succeed? This is not a new prospect. They've shot some more seismic, and they have a better idea. But seismic doesn't tell you what's there. You just see the structure. You can see the box, but you can't see what's in it.
"If they succeed, great. It's a company-maker. I'm sure there will be some fingernail biting. This is a gamble."
If Forcenergy finds enough oil, it will convert Osprey for production, build processing facilities on the inlet's western shore and ship oil through the Cook Inlet Pipeline to the tanker terminal at Drift River.
"This facility would pick up pipeline operating expenses and expenses of operating Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc.," Amundsen said. "Some existing platforms are marginal. It keeps operating expenses down for those other facilities."
Unocal spokesperson Roxanne Sinz agreed.
"Any additional production will extend the life of the existing infrastructure," she said. "Any time another entity is willing to help pay for those facilities, it will help."
Sinz said the last platform installed on Cook Inlet was Unocal's Monopod in 1986. Osprey's arrival is a huge event, she said, and Unocal wishes Forcenergy success.
"I think it's good news," she said. "It's a fun thing. It will be good for everybody."
VECO Inc. built Osprey's living quarters in Anchorage, while Hyundai Heavy Industries built the deck and legs in South Korea. Last month, Forcenergy shipped the living quarters to South Korea. Hyundai mounted them on the deck, loaded the deck onto a small barge, then put that and the legs onto the Swan, a bigger barge bound for Kachemak Bay.
Dockwise, a Netherlands company, is providing marine transportation. The Oxnard, Calif., office of Stolt Comex Seaway will assemble the platform in Port Graham and install it on Redoubt Shoal near West Foreland.
Amundsen said he expected the Swan, about 600 feet long, to anchor this morning in Homer for inspection by U.S. customs officials.
Stolt Comex has hired Udelhoven Oil Field System Services Inc. to weld the deck to the platform legs, Port Graham Corp. to provide food and lodging, and Seldovia's SOS Response Team to provide boats and standby oil spill cleanup equipment. Cook Inlet Tug is to provide several tug boats.
Pat Norman, Port Graham Corp. president, said the corporation will house and feed workers at its cannery. About 10 villagers will run shuttle service from the airport, provide clerical and maid services and work at the cannery mess hall. Three more will operate skiffs for SOS.
"It's not going to be a whole lot of revenue," he said. "It's just providing additional use of the cannery before Port Graham Seafoods comes in."
The platform should not interfere with subsistence fishing, he said. It will be in deep water, and subsistence fishers set their nets along the shore.
The Swan and its 2,500-ton payload leave Homer for Port Graham on the high tide Saturday morning. On Monday, workers will fill the Swan with ballast and float off the smaller barge and the platform legs.
Several days later, they will ballast the legs and float the smaller barge and the deck between them. Then, they will pump out ballast until the legs touch the bottom of the deck. Udelhoven workers will spend two or three weeks welding the legs to the deck, Amundsen said. Hyundai has already installed cranes, heat, oil-water separators and waste treatment equipment on the platform.
On July 7, if all goes according to plan, crews will tow Osprey to Redoubt Shoal. The platform will touch bottom on the outgoing tide July 9. Then workers will level the platform and drive pilings though its legs to anchor it to the bottom.
Forcenergy has permits to drill four exploratory wells and a fifth well through which workers will inject drilling muds and cuttings deep underground.
Nabors Alaska Drilling Inc. will supply a drilling rig in August, Amundsen said. Then, Forcenergy will begin drilling.
He said a peak of about 60 people will work to assemble the platform in Port Graham, and about 60 more will work on the platform during exploratory drilling.
If Forcenergy finds enough oil, he said, it will spend about three years drilling development wells. After that, Forcenergy will keep about five people on the platform and about five at production facilities on the shore.
Forcenergy can move Osprey if Redoubt Shoal does not produce sufficient quantities of oil. An available platform would allow Forcenergy to drill prospects that might otherwise be too expensive to explore, Boyd said. Or, it might lease or sell the platform to another company, he said.
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