Conoco Phillips

ConocoPhillips will begin initial production in 2022 from Narwhal, an undeveloped North Slope oil deposit south of the producing Alpine field, and will move toward full development in 2026, a company spokesperson said Nov. 18.

No production estimates or resource estimates were given.

“We have drilled two horizontal wells, one producer and one injector, from CD4 (an existing drillsite in the Alpine field) targeting the Narwhal reservoir,” ConocoPhillips spokesperson Rebecca Boys said in an email.

“We plan on initiating production and injection (to support production) from the wells in 2021 once the Narwhal PA (participating area) is approved,” by the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas, Boys said.

An injection well is one where producer pumps water or other fluids into an underground oil reservoir to stimulate production. A producing well is one that brings oil to the surface.

The company plans to further develop Narwhal from a new drillsite. “CD8 is a new drillsite that will come online later in the decade subject to stakeholder engagement and permit approvals,” she said.

Vincent Lelarge, ConocoPhillips’ North Slope asset development manager, said the company is planning the new drillsite in 2026. Lelarge’s remarks were to an industry conference in Anchorage Nov. 17.

Oil and gas from Narwhal will be processed in existing production facilities in the Alpine field.

Development of Narwhal has been under study for several years by ConocoPhillips. The accumulation is relatively small and the company has worked on plans to produce it, or at least part of it, with long-distance horizontal wells drilled from the existing Alpine drillsite CD4, avoiding the cost of building a stand-alone new drillsite.

The company is pursuing that strategy in developing another deposit in the Alpine field, Fiord West, completely with horizontal wells drilled from existing field facilities. Another undeveloped small deposit, Nuna, which is northeast of Alpine and near the Kuparuk River field, is planned for development but Lelarge gave no timetable in his remarks Nov. 17.

Production and injection tests had been carried out at Narwhal with the two horizontal wells drilled earlier but ConocoPhillips concluded that the entire reservoir cannot be drained efficiently with horizontal wells.

That led to plans for the new CD8 drillsite that will be positioned further south in a location to fully produce the deposit.

ConocoPhillips has been drilling record-breaking long-distance horizontal wells in and around the Alpine field for several years. Some of the wells that will tap Alpine West, for example, will exploit reservoir targets seven miles from the surface location of the drill rig.

The technology is not without challenges, however. Geologic conditions can sometimes lead to a collapse of the horizontal well bore or drilling equipment becoming stuck, requiring expensive redrilling, delays and cost increases.

Narwhal is part of a string of new discoveries in geologic trends extending south from the Alpine field along the Colville River and including parts of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Some of the discoveries, in the Nanushuck, an oil-bearing formation discovered six years ago, are of significant size. One of them, Pikka, is a potential billion-barrel field now being developed by Oil Search, a Papua New Guinea firm, and Repsol, based in Madrid.

Oil Search and Repsol are also studying possible development of Horseshoe, another discovery further south in the Nanushuck formation.

As field infrastructure like pipelines and access roads are built for Pikka and eventually Narwhal the development of the new discoveries further are enhanced.

ConocoPhillips is also engaged in development planning for Willow, a major discovery in the NPR-A west of the Alpine field. Willow has been delayed by a federal court decision earlier this year after a legal challenge was brought by conservation and tribal group.

The company is now working with the U.S Bureau of Land Management, which administers the NPR-A, on resolving issues stemming from the court decision.

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