ConocoPhillips to go ahead with Chukchi Sea drilling

map-alaskanslope-lgMARCH 8, 2013 — While Shell has delayed its plans for drilling offshore Alaska (see earlier story), ConocoPhillips plans to go ahead with exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea during the 2014 open water season.

In a document submitted to this year's NOAA Fisheries public Open Water Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, ConocoPhillips Company said it  "intends to drill one or two exploration wells within existing lease holdings in the Chukchi Sea during the open water season of 2014 to test whether oil deposits are present in a commercially viable quantity and quality. The drilling will be conducted with a jack-up rig and a variety of vessels (including tugs and barges, ice management and oil spill response vessels) and aircraft (fixed wing and helicopter) to support the drill rig operations. Activities that are part of the drilling operation include: (1) drill rig mobilization and positioning, (2) ice management, (3) drill rig resupply, (4) personnel transfer, (5) refueling, (6) oil spill response capability, and (7) drill rig demobilization. In addition, two or three vertical seismic profile (VSP) data acquisition runs per drilled well will be conducted from the rig."

ConocoPhillips was one of the major participants in the Chukchi Sea federal outer continental shelf (OCS) lease sale held in 2008. The company was awarded 98 OCS tracts, or 0.56 million acres, with total lease costs of $506 million.

Reuters reports that, at the Open Water meeting, Mike Faust, ConocoPhillipd Chukchi program manager, said that the company would take Shell's experience into account, but said there were key differences between their respective Arctic efforts.

Conoco Phillips is targeting the Devils Paw prospect, which is farther south in the Chukchi than Shell's prospects, so its operations will be in an area where sea ice melts earlier in the spring and forms later in the fall, meaning a longer open-water season in most years, he said.

ConocoPhillips also plans to use a jack-up rig, , rather than the mobile units used by Shell, noted Mr. Faust.

The unit that ConocoPhillips will be using is the Noble Houston Colbert under a one-year contract with Noble that extends through fourth-quarter 2014 at $235,000/day.

Capable of drilling wells up to 35,000 ft deep in 400 ft of water, the jack-up is scheduled for delivery from Singapore's Jurong Shipyard during the second-half 2013 and is being built to a Friede & Goldman JU3000N design that resulted from the combined development efforts of the shipbuilder, Noble, and Friede & Goldman.

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