Armstrong Oil targets winter wildcat well possibly linked to large discovery

If Armstrong Oil and Gas is lucky, a wildcat well it's planning to drill this winter will expand the dimensions of an oil discovery that already may be one of the largest in Alaska history.

The Denver-based company is requesting permission to drill a wildcat well on a state lease about 12 miles south of the village of Nuiqsut on the North Slope, according to a state public notice on Tuesday.

Armstrong has also said it's planning to drill a second well this winter northeast of Nuiqsut on the edge of the Pikka Unit, a field also known as Nanushuk.

The Nanushuk Field is about 150 miles southeast of Barrow near the Colville River, between ConocoPhillips' Alpine and Kuparuk River fields. It could produce at least 120,000 barrels of oil daily, according to estimates and data verified by a top engineering firm. The field sits on a combination of state and Native corporation lands.

The Nanushuk discovery was announced last year.

The Armstrong effort follows an announcement this month heralding a big discovery by Dallas-based Caelus Energy, which said it found a large amount of oil in Smith Bay about 50 miles southeast of Barrow.

Bill Armstrong, owner of Armstrong Oil and Gas, said the company hopes the wildcat Horseshoe No. 1 well is geologically linked to its discovery in the Pikka Unit.


The Horseshoe well is about 15 miles from the Pikka Unit, according to documents submitted with the company's plan of operations for Horseshoe.

"The Pikka discovery, although already big, has the potential to get a lot bigger," Armstrong said in a text message Tuesday.

The state public notice said the company's exploration plan for the well calls for putting "drilling equipment, a camp, maintenance buildings, and other associated facilities and equipment" on an ice pad about 1,500 feet east of the Colville River.

"The proposed operations are temporary and conducted from ice pads and ice roads which will melt during spring breakup," the plan says. All visible structures will be removed before breakup.

Drilling operations are expected to begin Jan. 15, with demobilization expected April 15 and a site cleanup planned for summer.

The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas will take comments on the proposal until Nov. 17.

In late September, Armstrong Oil also requested expansion of the 63,000-acre Pikka Unit approved by the state in June 2015. The division is taking public comment on that request, a roughly 20 percent expansion in 24 state leases, through Oct. 31.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or