The first offshore oil and gas platform installed in Cook Inlet since 1986 settled into place near West Foreland on the outgoing tide early Wednesday.
"Everything went extremely well," said John Amundsen, safety, health and environmental manager for Miami-based Forcenergy Inc. "It's a great team out there and there has been a lot of careful planning."
Two Crowley Marine Services tugs towed Forcenergy's $35 million Osprey Platform on Monday from the assembly site in Port Graham to deep water near West Foreland. Tuesday night, they pulled Osprey to the shallows at Redoubt Shoal. It touched bottom on the outgoing tide early Wednesday morning.
Workers were to fill the platform legs with water at high tide Wednesday, Amundsen said. Beginning July 5, they will drive a dozen steel pilings through the legs to anchor Osprey firmly to the bottom. In mid-August, Nabors Alaska Drilling will begin installing a drilling rig. Amundsen hopes to begin exploratory drilling in September.
If all goes well, Osprey could start production near the end of 2001.
Forcenergy permit applications to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest the company's 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 be a huge boost to the inlet's present oil production of roughly 32,000 barrels per day.
However, Forcenergy really will not know how big the reservoir is until it drills exploratory wells this summer, Gary Carlson, vice president for Alaska operations, said last month.
"We should be able to announce a successful well by Christmas," Amundsen said Wednesday. "We're extremely optimistic about the success of this project. We're thankful for the quality crews we've had and thankful for the cooperation of the agencies in permitting this exploratory program."
Forcenergy has used novel methods to cut costs. Traditionally, Cook Inlet oil companies have used a jack-up or floating rig to explore, then removed that to build a production platform.
Instead of importing a jack-up rig, though, Forcenergy designed Osprey as an exploratory platform. If exploratory wells find sufficient oil and gas, Forcenergy will convert it for production. If they fail, Forcenergy will move Osprey to another exploration site.
"The platform has been designed to be refloated and relocated if we're not successful with this project," Amundsen said. "We'll put a barge under it and refloat it with the tide."
VECO Inc. built living quarters for Osprey in Anchorage, while Hyundai Heavy Industries built the deck and legs in South Korea. Last month, Forcenergy shipped the 300-ton quarters to South Korea, where Hyundai mounted them on the deck. Hyundai loaded the deck onto a small barge, then loaded that and the legs onto a bigger barge, which arrived June 10 in Port Graham.
There, Forcenergy's prime installation contractor, Stolt Comex Seaway, ballasted the big barge lower in the water, then floated off the legs and the smaller barge with the deck. Workers ballasted the legs lower in the water, then floated the barge with the deck between them. Stolt Comex hired Udelhoven Oil Field System Services to weld the deck to the legs.
Amundsen said except for the Crowley tugs, the subcontractors all have been from Alaska.
Osprey was not scheduled for installation on Redoubt Shoal until July 9. However, it was ready to leave Port Graham on the high tide early Monday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Roanoke Island accompanied the tow. Forcenergy worked with the United Cook Inlet Drift Association to avoid conflicts with commercial fishers, Amund-sen said.
Forcenergy has permits to drill four exploratory wells plus a fifth well to inject drilling muds and cuttings deep underground for disposal. The first exploratory well will extend about 15,000 feet from the platform, Carlson said. It will reach not only down, but also about 6,000 feet to the side to find the hoped-for oil. The first well should take about three months to complete, he said.
Carlson has budgeted $5 million to $6 million for each well, but said he hopes to bring costs down as Forcenergy gains experience.
If the exploratory wells find sufficient reserves, Forcenergy will build two undersea pipelines to carry the oil and gas 3.3 miles to Kustatan on the inlet's west shore. There, it will build a power plant and facilities to remove the "produced water" that comes out of the ground with the oil and gas. A third undersea pipeline will carry the produced water back to Osprey for disposal through the injection well.
Forcenergy also plans two 7.8-mile pipelines to carry natural gas and crude oil from Kustatan to Trading Bay. From there, it could sell gas through existing Cook Inlet gas lines, and oil through the existing pipeline to the tanker terminal at Drift River.
Amundsen said Forcenergy has done the preliminary engineering for the pipelines and processing facilities. Forcenergy is still applying for permits to convert Osprey to production.
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