NordAq to develop Shadura gas prospect in Kenai refuge

Kay Cashman

NordAq Energy has not officially announced a natural gas discovery at its Shadura prospect in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, but amid rumors of a huge find the independent recently said it expects to produce "up to 50 million cubic feet" of natural gas a day for Southcentral Alaska starting in February 2013 and lasting about 30 years.

After months of speculation, NordAq appears to have quietly posted that information on its web page Nov. 4. Before that, when asked if he had a discovery, NordAq president Bob Warthen would say only that the well confirmed the company's expectations and "we're permitting surface facilities; you figure it out."

The entire Cook Inlet basin produces roughly 245 million cubic feet a day based on a daily average from January through September 2011.

Shadura gas "can be brought on line quickly," the company's website said, noting it initiated development phase permitting Sept. 1 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the wildlife refuge, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, followed in October by filings with the state of Alaska.

The Shadura No. 1 wildcat well is west of the Swanson River field on the northern Kenai Peninsula, about five miles northeast of Nikiski.

NordAq's website said it expects all permit approvals for the Shadura Natural Gas Development Project to be in hand by January, with road construction to begin that same month.

The proposed development begins in the Captain Cook State Recreation Area and ends where the gas is: in Cook Inlet Region Inc. subsurface estate under the northwest corner of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Cook Inlet is the regional Native corporation for Southcentral Alaska.

NordAq's plan calls for a single, 12.3-acre, gravel drilling and production pad "as opposed to conventional development with multiple pads," thus reducing the field's environmental impact. The pad will hold "six natural gas wells, a water well, a Class II injection well," according to the website.

In October 2012, construction is expected to begin on two 8-inch-diameter gathering lines. A fiber optic communications cable will be laid in an adjacent trench.

To mitigate the visual effect of the gas field, NordAq said it will "use sweeping zigzags in forest areas and sweeping curves in wetland areas to avoid a linear path and help camouflage the route during operations ... burying the natural gas gathering lines and fiber optic cables."

The company also plans to "maintain hydrologic continuity in streams by constructing clear span bridges."

The gas will be transported to the "existing Conoco Phillips Alaska Natural Gas, or CPANG, Nikiski pipeline located outside the refuge boundary.

State records show NordAq was created in 2009. Warthen, its president, is a geologist with 42 years of Cook Inlet exploration and operation experience, including 25 years with Unocal in senior management. Chief technical officer Hugh North of England has 30 years of international exploration experience.

Wesley Loy contributed to this report.

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