State OKs Ahtna plan to drill for gas near Glennallen

Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas has issued a notice approving the drilling of the Tolsona gas exploration well by Ahtna Inc., the Native regional corporation for the Copper River region. The planned well is in state land about 11.5 miles west of Glennallen. As part of its conditions of approval, the state requires status reports on the drilling project in May and November of each year.

Ahtna anticipates that the well, drilled under the terms of a state exploration license, will target thick Nelchina sandstone intervals at depths between 4,000 and 5,000 feet. The concept is to find natural gas that could be used to alleviate the high cost of energy in the Copper River region.

Ahtna is contracting with HXR Drilling Services to drill the well, possibly using the Saxon 147 drilling rig. Drilling will take place from an approximately 4-acre gravel pad, connected to the nearby Glenn Highway by a gravel road. Ahtna has proposed, and the state has agreed, that, if the road and pad are not required for gas production following a gas discovery, the gravel structures could be left in place for recreational access to the Tolsona area.

Following road and pad construction, and the mobilization of equipment, drilling operations are planned to take place between mid-March and mid-April, with any well testing to be completed by early May. Ahtna plans to have demobilization and site cleanup completed by the end of June.

A previous gas exploration well, the Ahtna 1-19 well, drilled about 2 miles east of the planned new well site between 2005 and 2007 by Rutter and Wilbanks encountered gas but had to be abandoned because of exceptionally high formation pressures and problems with water encroachment.