Energy

‘The Beast’ rig sets a drilling record for ConocoPhillips and cracks open a new reservoir

A rig nicknamed “The Beast” has set a long-distance drilling record in Alaska, and unlocked oil from a new section of the western North Slope oil fields.

ConocoPhillips Alaska said the reservoir is expected to produce up to 20,000 barrels of oil per day, adding to Alaska North Slope oil production rates that lately have run near 500,000 barrels daily.

The Doyon 26, a massive rig that ConocoPhillips ordered six years ago to tap a long-known but especially remote oil accumulation, punched a horizontal well into the earth for a distance of 6.7 miles, the company said in a statement on Friday.

It’s a new record for a land-based rig, the company said.

On May 18, “The Beast” also produced the first oil from the reservoir, known as Fiord West, northwest of the Alpine development.

The new oil is flowing at unexpectedly good rates, about 10,000 barrels of oil daily, the company said.

ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s biggest oil producer, has announced other drilling records in recent years at the Alpine site. The horizontal wells differ from vertical wells extended down into earth. They can travel a more horizontal path across huge distances, reducing the need for tundra-damaging gravel drill pads, pipelines and roads.

“The Beast,” the largest mobile land rig in North America, has even more potential, with the possibility of drilling wells 7.5 miles long, ConocoPhillips said. It can develop about three times as much area as conventional rigs, reaching about 150 square miles from a drilling pad that’s the size of a few city blocks.

[ConocoPhillips prepares to deploy ‘The Beast’ on the North Slope]

In this case, the drilling took place from a small pad expansion from the existing CD2 drilling site in the Alpine field, ConocoPhillips said.

“This project opens a new era we call ‘growth without gravel’ where we can use extended reach technology to access 60% more acreage from a single pad,” said Erec Isaacson, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska.

The rig was built by Doyon Drilling, owned by Doyon, an Alaska Native regional corporation.

Getting it to the North Slope was a logistical feat. At 9.5 million pounds, it was hauled from its fabrication site in Alberta, Canada, in 270 tractor-trailer loads, about twice the amount for most drilling rigs.

After an assembly and testing in the North Slope hub town of Deadhorse, it was trucked to its drilling site in huge Lego-like pieces, including a chunk that slid off a road in 2020.

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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 alex@adn.com.

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