Late last week, Buccaneer Energy announced that “all outstanding approvals and permits have been granted” for the company’s drilling operations on its West Eagle Unit off East End Road approximately 20 miles east of Homer.
The drilling permit from the Alaska Oil and Gas conservation Commission has been approved. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation also has approved Buccaneer’s amended oil spill plan, known as the C-Plan. The C-Plan was previously approved for Buccaneer’s onshore exploration drilling at specified location in Cook Inlet and was amended to address the West Eagle exploration drilling.
“We purchased 2D seismic that showed an undrilled enclosure and all of these other enclosures in and around the area have proven to have significant amounts of natural gas,” said Jay Morakis of JMR Worldwide, spokesperson for Buccaneer. “The 2D seismic gives very high probability that this enclosure has natural gas and maybe some oil, although this is mainly a natural gas play.”
The data represents an area of 233 miles, with the area Buccaneer is considering estimated to be more than 4,000 acres.
Plans to begin drilling by Sept. 1 have been pushed back.
“Given the C-Plan had not yet been received from ADEC, the DNR issued a Notice of Default and Cure that extends the date by which the West Eagle No. 1 well needs to be spudded until Dec. 1, 2013,” Dean Gallegos, Buccaneer Energy’s executive chairman, said in a Sept. 26 press release.
The revised plan called for drilling of the West Eagle well to begin mid-October, upon completion of the Kenai Loop No. 1-4 well. The Glacier drilling rig, currently being used at the Kenai Loop location, will be transported from the Kenai site to the West Eagle location off East End Road.
“What’s going on now is all of the piping, casing and equipment needed is being moved,” said Morakis. “The rig literally has wheels on it, comes apart and folds into a truck, but it has not moved onto site yet.”
A contractor was hired by Buccaneer to make some improvements to East End Road. The work was done under the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversight and has been completed. Details on the work were not available.
A source for water needed during drilling operations led to discussions between the city of Homer and Buccaneer, but that need will be met by a well Buccaneer has drilled
at the West Eagle site.
“We don’t anticipate the need for any additional water,”said Morakis.
Homer City Manager Walt Wrede said the city had been considered as a possible source at one time.
“The last time I saw Buccaneer, they said they needed water for five to 10 days for something like 10,000 gallons a day,” said Wrede. “We said that’s not a big problem. We could easily produce that. That’s like two truckloads of water. But that was the last I heard from them.”
Concerns about water needed for West Eagle were raised during the C-Plan public comment period. Specifically noted were the impacts on streams and wetlands that water withdrawals and discharge in the area can have on streams, wetlands and the Voznesenka Village Safe Water and Wastewater infrastructure projects.
Also noted were concerns about limited potable water for Homer. ADEC’s responded that those concerns were outside the scope of the department’s contingency plan regulatory authority.
During a recent meeting of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council’s board of directors in Homer, Christina Anderson, Buccaneer’s environmental and stakeholder relations manager, indicated contracts were being considered for lodging for the West Eagle crew. However, as it turns out, those are not needed.
“The reason why is that the majority of people that work on the Glacier rig are local,” said Morakis. “Some could be from a little further away, so, should we need to house people, we’ll use local hotels that we’ve used before.”
During the C-Plan public comment period, ADEC received responses from Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, Cook Inletkeeper, the Center for Water Advocacy, Homer Soil and Water Conservation District and 31 other individuals in the Homer area.
In addition to the concerns about water noted above, responders raised concerns about drilling muds and cuttings and hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”
“The Industry Preparedness Program does not oversee or handle permitting for disposal of drilling muds and cuttings,” ADEC wrote in its amendment approval. It directed questions of that nature to the state’s Division of Environmental Health, Solid Waste Program.
Regarding fracking, ADEC said, “Buccaneer has stated that it has no plans in place to perform hydraulic fracturing.”
ADEC said it believed all comments from the department and other reviewers were addressed during the public review process.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben