ConocoPhillips readies Greater Mooses Tooth-2 for startup

ConocoPhillips Alaska is coming out of the industrywide pandemic slowdown with a $1 billion-plus oil project almost ready to go and a lengthy lineup of North Slope prospects behind that.

The Houston-based producer’s $1.4 billion Greater Mooses Tooth-2 project is on track to start producing oil within weeks, slightly ahead of schedule after three years of work, according to North Slope Asset Development Manager Vincent Lelarge.

Drillers were finishing work on the fourth well at GMT-2 when Lelarge discussed the company’s activities during the Resource Development Council for Alaska virtual conference Nov. 17. The project is permitted for up to 36 wells, according to ConocoPhillips.

“We’ll be drilling for years to come,” Lelarge said, adding that the reservoir qualities identified in early production tests “are at or better than expected.”

Production rates from GMT-2 should ramp up throughout next year. ConocoPhillips estimates peak production could reach 40,000 barrels per day.

The Alpine satellite is also another incremental step west into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska with industry infrastructure. Development of GMT-2 followed on the heels of Greater Mooses Tooth-1, a $700 million oil development brought online in late 2018.

ConocoPhillips Alaska has produced more than 600 million barrels of oil since startup at Alpine in 2000 and, according to Lelarge, company leaders expect to send another 600 million barrels through the field’s processing facilities over the coming decades, as well.

Much of that oil is likely to come from the Brookian geologic sequence topset sands — popularized by Armstrong Oil and Gas and Repsol in the Pikka Unit — that have proven to be a very hittable target across the western portion of the Slope in recent years. To that end, ConocoPhillips is working toward production from the predominantly north-south play, internally dubbed the “Narwhal trend” this year after drilling from the existing CD-4 site in Alpine.

“The Narwhal trend is a great example of a Brookian topset,” Lelarge said.

ConocoPhillips applied with state Division of Oil and Gas officials Nov. 12 to establish a Narwhal participating area, an administrative step necessity prior to producing new oil.

Future production from the Narwhal trend could come from CD-8, an Alpine satellite planned for later this decade to the south of existing facilities, according to Lelarge.

Additionally, the company’s powerful extended-reach drilling, or ERD, rig, which arrived to the Slope in early 2020, is now drilling from CD-2 drill site. From there, ConocoPhillips finally expects to produce oil from its long-held Fiord West prospect that underlies the sensitive Colville River Delta north of the Alpine field.

In 2015, ConocoPhillips agreed with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to commission a rig that could pull oil from the Fiord West prospect in the company’s Alpine oil field without needing additional pads, roads and pipelines.

Committing to the new drilling rig gave ConocoPhillips the opportunity to extend its leases for Fiord West.

Division of Oil and Gas officials also approved an updated drilling plan for another one of the company’s mid-sized North Slope prospects on Nov. 17. ConocoPhillips representatives previously requested to change their current development plan for the large Kuparuk River field to include additional appraisal drilling at its partially developed Nuna project. The company purchased the Nuna project from struggling independent Caelus in 2019 after Caelus invested significantly in initial infrastructure; a transaction company leaders referred to at the time as “$100 million for 100 million barrels.”

Now, ConocoPhillips plans in April to start drilling an injector/producer well pair into the Torok reservoir targeted by Caelus following tests of an existing well pair.

And that is all without mention of the company’s preeminent prospect, the $8 billion Willow project north of the GMT Unit in the federal petroleum reserve.

Lelarge said the company is continuing to advance detailed engineering and design work on Willow while its permitting team works with Bureau of Land Management officials to remedy project approvals partially vacated by a U.S. District Court ruling earlier this year.

A ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman wrote via email that there is no expectation regarding how long the supplemental environmental impact statement for Willow will take, but company leaders “encourage BLM to proceed in a manner that will minimize delay.”

A BLM Alaska spokeswoman was unable to comment on a schedule for the Willow permitting work.

Industry advocates view Willow as another major hub — much like Alpine — for additional development further west in the NPR-A.

Alaska’s Republican leaders lauded the Biden administration in spring when Justice Department attorneys defended the Willow record of decision approved by BLM officials in the Trump administration.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
11/24/2021 - 11:17am