Furie applies for new Cook Inlet platform

Alaska Public Media–Furie Alaska has submitted an operations plan for a new offshore drilling platform in Cook Inlet. If the project is approved, natural gas production could begin as soon as this fall.

This is a big project for Furie. They were one of the first companies on the scene at the beginning of the so-called Cook Inlet renaissance in 2010, and brought in the jack-up rig Spartan 151 the next year to drill in the Kitchen Lights Unit. That’s the same part of the Inlet where they hope to plant a new drilling platform, about ten miles north of Boulder Point.

The platform would be the seventeenth operating in Cook Inlet. The oldest of which date back to the mid 1960’s. That was a topic of concern last fall, when industry executives and state officials got together in Anchorage for a work session on what to do with the oldest platforms, and how regulations might change for projects like Furie’s. Mike Munger is the executive director for the Cook Inlet Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council. He said at the time the Council had been sitting on a white paper with recommendations for those aging platforms since 2005. But things have changed since then.

“There’s so many dynamics that’s happening in Cook Inlet, with the new independents coming in and acquiring these legacy assets. So we’re looking at the possibility of the Cook Inlet oil field five years ago versus now, it’s a completely different dynamic. Where that all shakes out as far as dismantlement, restoration and removal and the ultimate fate of these platforms is really up in the air right now.”

No real firm action has been taken since those meetings, and what will happen with this platform when its service life is over isn’t known. The plan simply states that because the design life of the platform is more than 20 years, abandonment options and technology are likely to evolve during that time, and so no exact plans for removal are being made. Last fall, state senator Peter Micciche said those plans should be in place from the start.

“I think for future development, those are agreements that should be made at the beginning. We should understand ultimately who’s going to be responsible and what those expectations are.”

There are two phases to this operation. In the first, the platform goes up, two 16- mile long, 10-inch diameter subsea pipelines will be laid in, leading to a new production facility set to be built in Nikiski. Phase two includes keeping all the stuff in Phase one up and running and also calls for the intermittent use of jack up rigs as more wells are tested and developed. So far, three exploratory wells have been drilled along with one development well. The state Department of Natural Resources is taking comments on the plan until March 28th.