ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Less than 30 days after starting its first well, the Alaska subsidiary of Evergreen Resources Inc. has finished drilling the eighth and final well in its shallow natural gas exploration project north of Anchorage.
Denver-based Evergreen, a pioneer in producing gas from coal seams, bored two groups of four wells in the 70,000-acre Pioneer unit roughly between Wasilla and Houston.
The first seven wells went 2,600 to 3,700 feet deep and each contained 80 to 100 feet of coal seam, Evergreen President and CEO Mark Sexton said, before results were in for the eighth well.
''That's plenty to work with,'' he told Petroleum News Alaska.
The wells were drilled with Evergreen's own rig. In each test group, a central well is drilled, and three more are added a thousand feet away to the north, southeast and southwest.
Typically, coalbed methane wells produce as much as 95 percent water and just 5 percent natural gas at first, but that ratio can reverse in five years to 95 percent gas and 5 percent water, he said.
The methane, after removing the water, is generally quite pure.
''It could easily be pipeline quality gas coming right from the well head,'' Sexton said. ''It's the leanest, cleanest form of methane.''
Evergreen is planning a nine-month production test. Water rate, gas rate and pressures will be recorded and analyzed to determine if the coals will produce economic quantities of gas.
The Pioneer test will cost about $6 million this winter, Sexton said. The company plans to spend $10 million in Alaska next year.
Evergreen moved its own drill rig to jobs in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Colorado and now Alaska because the company can control the pace of drilling, and the rig works fast.
The air hammer drill can bore 100 feet an hour, and Evergreen crews typically complete each well within 48 hours.
''It's very cost-effective for us to own our own equipment,'' Sexton said.
Coalbed methane production requires a lot of wells. Evergreen has drilled more than 900 wells on its 200,000-acre Raton Basin property in Colorado and has identified 800 additional drilling locations there.
If the Pioneer field proves commercial, it will have a 20- to 30-year production life and could employ as many as 500 people, including contractors, Sexton said.
Evergreen bought the unit from Ocean Energy and Unocal in May 2001. Unocal formed the unit in 1997.
Coal seams in the Cook Inlet basin could contain several trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to double existing reserves in the region, according to Jack Ekstrom, Evergreen director of government and public affairs.
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