First Shale Oil Exploratory Wells To Be Drilled This Summer
ANCHORAGE- At a recent presentation before the Senate Resources Committee, legislators learned that the first exploratory shale oil well will be drilled into Alaska’s vast shale rock formations later this month. Great Bear Petroleum will drill its first exploratory well in the next few weeks on leases it holds just south of the Prudhoe Bay field, and plans to follow up with more wells, for an initial analysis of Alaska’s shale oil potential.
During the hearing Ed Duncan, President and CEO of Great Bear Petroleum acknowledged that it’s possible that Alaska shale won’t flow oil in commercial quantities. However he also noted that, if the rock does produce, “It will be beyond game-changing.” Working with its new partner, Halliburton, a world leader in the fracking techniques used to make shale rock produce oil and gas, Great Bear plans to conduct extensive testing on this year’s exploratory wells. The North Slope has three different zones of shale rock and each will be fracked and tested for flowrates. If the results are good, the company plans to begin pilot production as early as next year.
“Shale and other unconventional oil sources move very quickly into production,” said Senator Hollis French, D-Anchorage and a former Cook Inlet and North Slope oil worker. “If Great Bear is successful, and I hope they are, Alaskans should be first in line, ready to fill these new jobs. It’s vital that our job training programs begin to strategize about how to train our work force for this new opportunity.”
Great Bear plans to be getting into full production by 2015. Duncan anticipates drilling as many as 200 wells a year from gravel pads, meaning the jobs would be year-round. The biggest problem Duncan sees right now is finding hundreds of people to work in the new shale industry – as well as training them and finding accommodations for them to live. He says too many are finding jobs in North Dakota. "These will be good-paying jobs that can support Alaskan families, and we look forward to the challenge of training Alaskans in the skills they'll need to be successful," said Vince Beltrami, Executive President of Alaska's AFL-CIO.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there may be as many as 2 billion barrels of shale oil resources in northern Alaska. Alaska has three of the most prolific source rocks in the world, stacked one above the other, the deepest and oldest being the Triassic-age Shublik; in the middle the Jurassic-age Kingak shale; and the youngest and shallowest being the Cretaceous-age Hue shale, which is also referred to as the Brookian shale.
In addition to Great Bear, Royale Energy recently bid for and obtained leases on 100,000 acres of what it termed “a prime shale play” on the North Slope. Royale has said that it plans to drill as many as six exploration wells next winter on its holdings.