Frontier exploration

Oct. 1, 2006
One thing high oil prices will do is to renew interest in frontier exploration, as this month’s issue demonstrates.

One thing high oil prices will do is to renew interest in frontier exploration, as this month’s issue demonstrates.

New E&P is taking place in Cook Inlet, Alaska, deepwater Peru, the Barents Sea, and other frontier regions around the globe.

At the same time, a new drillship design will enable drilling in previously unattainable water depths.

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“I can’t wait to drill Kitchen. I’m fired up!” AsManaging Editor David Paganie reports, Danny Davis, president of Houston-based independent Escopeta Oil, has a hard time holding back his enthusiasm while waiting to mobilize a jackup rig for a drilling program in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

The company is confident that the research it conducted over the last 12 years is sufficient to lead it to the discovery of up to 1.7 Bbbl of oil and 7.5 tcf of gas, which would be the largest find in Alaska in almost 40 years.

The Escopeta hunt is spearheaded by Davis and three veteran geologists:Bob Worthem (30 years at Unocal), David Doherty (20 years at Arco), and Frank Banar (37 years at Mobil). All have many years of experience in the Cook Inlet. Don’t miss Paganie’s story, beginning on page 30.

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Peru’s prolific Talara basin has generated over 1.7 Bbbl of oil and associated gas from onshore fields, some of which have proven seaward extensions. No wells have been drilled, however, in adjoining waters beyond a depth of 100 m, and seismic data beyond this point is sparse.

For various reasons, the industry has ignored the deeper water plays as being high risk, but this is also the attraction forPlectrum Petroleum. As Jeremy Beckman, Editor Europe, reports, the Aberdeen-based company - which focuses exclusively on under-explored frontier provinces - is currently finalizing terms with Perupetro for a 30-year license for the Talara basin offshore block Z-34. His article begins on page 44.

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Gazprom’s Shtokman field in the Barents Sea may be the tip of the iceberg for oil and gas development offshore northern Europe and Russia. When coupled with Statoil’s Snøhvit gas field and Eni’s Goliat oil discoveries, developments are expected to continue in this part of the Arctic Circle. As International Editor Gene Kliewer reports beginning on page 36, the Russian estimates of hydrocarbon reserves in the Barents, Petchora, and Kara seas, for instance, are expected to warrant further exploration and drilling in this frontier area, despite its weather difficulties.

New deepwater drilling capabilities

WhenTransocean started designing a new deepwater drillship to meet the needs of its customers, it found four big areas in which significant enhancements were requested. They are the top drives, mud systems, tree-handling capacities, and power management. The results will be seen on the Discoverer Clear Leader when the drillship debuts in 2009, according to the current schedule. Eventually Transocean will operate three of the new class vessels -- two that will work for Chevron and one for Hydro. Gene Kliewer discusses the new rig design beginning on page 40.

Eldon Ball, Houston