Drilling rig en route to Osprey

Posted: Monday, September 25, 2000

Miami-based Forcenergy Inc. last week finished driving and grouting the pilings that hold its new Osprey Platform in place. Officials hope to begin drilling by the end of October.

"Now, we're hooking up the quarters and power," said Gary Carlson, vice president for Alaska operations. "What we're doing now is waiting for the drilling rig to be trucked to Anchorage and loaded here. I think we're talking about a dozen boat-loads."

Nabors Alaska Drilling Inc. is bringing its Rig 429 from the North Slope to Osprey. Carlson said it will take about a month to bring the pieces and set them up to drill.

Traditionally, Cook Inlet oil companies have used a jack-up or floating rig to explore for oil and gas, then removed that to build a production platform. However, Forcenergy officials took a different tack to explore their Redoubt Shoal prospect near West Foreland. Instead of importing a jack-up rig, they designed Osprey as an exploratory platform. If exploratory wells find sufficient oil and gas, Forcenergy will convert Osprey for production. If they fail, Forcenergy will move it to another exploration site.

Carlson said Forcenergy has spent about $33.8 million on Osprey so far. Contractors assembled the platform last spring in Port Graham, then set it in June about 1.8 miles southeast of West Foreland. This summer, workers drove pilings through its legs to anchor it to the bottom. Osprey is the first new platform installed on Cook Inlet since 1986.

Forcenergy permit applications to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest Redoubt Shoal could produce up to 25,000 barrels of oil and 4.3 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. That could nearly double the inlet's present oil production of roughly 32,000 barrels per day.

However, Forcenergy will not know how big the reservoir is until it drills the exploratory wells. It 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, which he expected to cost about $5.5 million, will extend about 15,500 feet from the platform. It will reach not only down, but also about 6,000 feet to the side to find the hoped-for oil. It probably will be done by late January, Carlson said.

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.

"We're in the permitting process for the production phase," Carlson said. "It's contingent on the first well being successful and being about to move the permitting process along. We're hoping to commit to the production phase early in the first quarter. Then, we'll spend the full year (2001) building production facilities and pipelines and drilling the next four or five wells. We'll go into full production in 2002.

"That's the first pay-back. We've been spending a lot of money."

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