Two Cook Inlet drilling rigs parked in English Bay instead of Homer dock

HOMER -- Although city officials said they hoped the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence would moor at Homer's Deep Water Dock this winter, the rig has moved to English Bay near Port Graham, Dean Gallegos, executive chairman of Buccaneer Energy, said in a press release. The Endeavour joins Furie Alaska's jack-up rig, the Blake 151, at Port Graham.

After winterization work and annual hull inspections, Buccaneer plans to move the Endeavour in late November back to the Cosmopolitan site in lower Cook Inlet off Stariski, the drilling site it worked this spring and summer, Gallegos said. He said the Cosmopolitan site is considered ice free, and Buccaneer plans to drill one or two wells this winter. Buccaneer is working to get final permits to spud the Cosmopolitan number 2 well.

The Endeavour had been at the Southern Cross Unit in upper Cook Inlet this year. Buccaneer had seen some settling of the rig's legs, Gallegos said, and side-scan sonar showed movement of sand behind and around the bottom of the rig legs.

Bob Shavelson, with the environmental watchdog Cook Inletkeeper, said that raised concerns about the jack-up rig's stability.

"If you've got a three-legged rig and one of the legs starts to subside, you've got that lack of stability," he said.

A new drilling site in the Southern Cross Unit had been identified for further exploration, but given the limited drilling time before the end of the summer-and-fall drilling season, Buccaneer moved the Endeavour to Port Graham, Gallegos said. The drilling season ends Oct. 31.

If the Endeavour goes to the Cosmopolitan site, that should still benefit the city, said Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins.

"As long as they're in the lower inlet, we'll see business from their fleet tugs," he said.

Rig tenders will still visit Homer's Deep Water Dock to take on fuel, supplies and crew, Hawkins said -- business that results in moorage and other tariff fees.

"Longshoreman are smiling because they're working," he said. "The dock's seeing business. That's very much in keeping with the whole purpose of it being there, in many ways more than long-term moorage of the rig."

Shavelson questioned the wisdom of overwintering at Stariski.

"We think that's a recipe for disaster to have a jack-up rig stationed off Anchor Point in the winter time. You can see from the recent storm we get exceptional winds," he said, referring to the storm that brought 35-knot winds and 8-foot seas to lower Cook Inlet.

Homer City Manager Walt Wrede said earlier he understood Buccaneer would have needed a permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to put its legs down at the Deep Water Dock. The city wrote a letter of support for a permit application, but Buccaneer did not apply for a permit, said Ginny Litchfield, Kenai Peninsula Area manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's habitat division.

English Bay is not a critical habitat area and thus Fish and Game permits are not needed, Litchfield said.

Buccaneer also is negotiating with the Alaska Department of Resources to drill again in the Southern Cross unit. A unit agreement to drill there expires on Oct. 31.

If Buccaneer gets permission to return to Southern Cross, the Endeavour would start drilling after April 15, 2014.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at