Story last updated at 3:21 p.m. Friday, August 9, 2002

New inlet gas reserves sought
by Matt Tunseth
Morris News Service-Alaska

Marathon Oil Company has submitted an application to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources that seeks to open approximately 13,289 acres of land beneath Cook Inlet to drilling for natural gas.

According to the application, the site is located offshore, nearly five miles south of Cape Kasilof. The application calls for Marathon to drill two wells from shore, as well as an option to conduct three-dimensional imaging, according to J. Brock Riddle, land manager for Marathon.

Riddle said last week that the Kasilof prospect is just the latest in Marathon's gas exploration efforts in the inlet.

"This is just one prospect in our Cook Inlet portfolio," Riddle said.

In January Marathon announced that it, along with Unocal, had found gas at the Grassim Oskolkoff platform off Ninilchik. While that project was a joint venture, Riddle said, the Kasilof exploration will be "100 percent Marathon."

Although no one knows for sure just how much gas is located beneath Cook Inlet, Marathon has made a major commitment to developing the resource in the past few years.

Last year, the company drilled eight exploratory wells in the inlet and on the peninsula. And earlier this year, the company announced plans to spend between $30 million and $40 million on producing and finding Cook Inlet natural gas.

Riddle said that if all goes well at Kasilof, both the Kasilof and Ninilchik discoveries would eventually be used to help supply the planned Kenai-Kachemak natural gas pipeline. However, Riddle said, the Kasilof unit isn't critical to the pipeline being built.

"If this works, it'll help. But the pipeline will happen regardless of what happens at Kasilof," he said.

Riddle said that drilling will be conducted to minimize the impact to the environment and wildlife in the area.

"It'll be onshore to offshore," he said. "We are always careful with environmental concerns, as part of our normal (drilling) procedures."

Riddle said the land where the operation will take place is already owned by Marathon, so conflicts with area residents will be kept to a minimum.

The public has until Aug. 27 to comment on the application. Comments may be submitted to the Division of Oil and Gas, Units Section, 550 West Seventh Ave., Suite 800, Anchorage, AK 99501. If successful, the application will create a new Kasilof unit that would enable Marathon to begin searching for more natural gas hidden beneath the ocean floor.

Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.