BP IS at last poised to start development of its Liberty field offshore Alaska, three years after making the decision to press ahead and 11 years following discovery in 1997.
The company will utilise the extended-each drilling technology it pioneered at Wytch Farm in the south of England in the early-1990s to drill-up the reservoir, which lies some 10km offshore.
However, BP has already used extended-reach drilling in Alaska – at Niakuk and Milne Point – but the Liberty wells will extend much farther offshore. Indeed, BP anticipates that a new world record for extended-reach drilling will be established, finally beating the Wytch Farm achievements.
The longest reach wells are expected run to 13,400m (44,000ft). Output per well will be about 15,000 barrels per day peak.
Plans call for four producers and two injectors. A purpose-designed Arctic drilling rig is being built for the project by Parker Drilling.
The company had originally planned to exploit Liberty from an artificial offshore island, but lessons learned from the “twin” North Star development of the late-1990s – which suffered major cost and time overruns, plus regulatory difficulties – forced abandonment of that approach.
Work starts on Liberty this summer with a seismic survey prior to drilling operations starting from an existing satellite pad on the existing Endicott field. However, this operation will not get under way until 2010, with first commercial oil expected the following year.
BP estimates the capital cost will be about $1.5billion, even though existing infrastructure is to be utilised. Recoverable reserves are about 100million barrels of oil and output is expected to peak at some 40,000 barrels per day.
“Liberty will set a new standard for Arctic oilfield engineering and development,” BP Alaska president Doug Suttles said.
“These will be the longest wells ever drilled and will allow us to develop a new offshore reservoir with the least environmental impact.
“At the same time, we can extend the economic life of the Endicott facilities. It’s all part of our 50-year future in Alaska.”
Robert Malone, chairman of BP America, added: “Liberty is an important project for the nation, for Alaska and for BP. It demonstrates that new sources of domestic energy can be developed and produced responsibly.”
BP is the sole interest holder in Liberty.