Pioneer to begin tests on Cosmopolitan in 2010

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pioneer Natural Resources Inc. plans to conduct a production flow test at its Cosmopolitan oil discovery in Cook Inlet in January, but has delayed drilling an additional appraisal well into the deposit.

A well is now planned and it will be drilled by early 2012 at the latest under the current schedule, a Pioneer spokesman said.

"We have moved a rig on site to do a workover on an appraisal well drilled in 2007, and we intend to begin another production test in January," said Tadd Owens, Pioneer's Alaska public affairs manager.

The Rowan 68 rig is being used on the workover project.

Last year the company said it hoped to drill in 2010, but Owens said that is now unlikely. The company has filed an updated plan of development with the state of Alaska with a commitment to drill the well by March 2012, he said.

"Cook Inlet is a tough place to drill. The reservoir is offshore and shallow, and a big part of our objective in 2007 was to demonstrate that we could drill a long extended-reach well under these circumstances. It was a big confidence builder for us," Owens said.

The company did a production test, completed its 2007 appraisal well and achieved rates of 400 to 500 barrels a day, "which was a pleasing result for us," Owens said.

Pioneer decided to do additional tests, however, before making a decision to develop the field because of the complex nature of the reservoir and the difficulties of drilling long horizontal wells through thick Cook Inlet coals, Owens said.

The deposit is three miles offshore in Cook Inlet on state of Alaska leases. It is at about a 6,500-foot vertical depth and in the Starichkof geologic formation, Owens said.

Pioneer would develop Cosmopolitan with extended-reach horizontal production wells from an existing drill pad near Anchor Point on the Kenai Peninsula. The 2007 appraisal well was drilled from the pad, which would be expanded if the field were developed.

The Cosmopolitan accumulation was originally discovered by Pennzoil in 1967 in the early stages of Cook Inlet exploration, but was not considered to be economically viable at the time.

The potential development has attracted attention because it could be the first commercial oil production from a part of Cook Inlet outside a group of producing oil fields clustered in upper Cook Inlet. Outside of these areas Cook Inlet is considered to be mostly gas-prone, state geologists have said.

ConocoPhillips acquired the prospect in 2002 and drilled two appraisal wells, Hansen 1 and Hansen 1-A. Pioneer acquired the prospect from ConocoPhillips in 2007 and drilled its appraisal well, Hansen 1-A L-1, Owens said.

Pioneer has estimated that Cosmopolitan could contain 30 million to 50 million barrels of recoverable resources. If developed it would require 12 to 20 wells, including production and injection wells, and is estimated to be capable of producing about 8,000 barrels per day at peak, Owens said.

If a go-ahead is given, the field could be producing in 2013 or 2014.

Owens said Pioneer would not build a pipeline but would truck the crude oil about 75 miles by road to the Tesoro Alaska Petroleum refinery in Nikiski, north of the field location.

Tim Bradner can be reached at

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