Topic: "Cook Inlet Exploration: Past, Present, and Future"
Speaker: David Buthman; Hilcorp, Anchorage
The first commercial oil discovery in the Cook Inlet Basin occurred in 1957 at Swanson River Field, located on the Kenai Peninsula. This proof of valuable natural resources earned Alaska entry into the union as the 49th state in 1958. During the decade that followed, a number of exploratory wells were drilled in the Cook Inlet targeting oil, but found large amounts of gas - approximately 7 trillion cubic feet of gas. Explorers were discouraged by the oversupply of gas with no market, and the 1.8 billion barrels of oil that were found didn’t justify continued capital efforts.
Enter the turbulent late 1960’s: Several key developments took place in Alaska: 1) in 1968 the Union Collier Chemical Plant was built on the Kenai Peninsula in order to turn gas into fertilizer and sell it to Asia, 2) Arco completed the Prudhoe Bay State #1 discovery on the North Slope in 1968, and 3) the Kenai LNG plant was built in 1969. Since monetizing the Cook Inlet oversupply of gas via the Fertilizer and LNG Plants spanned several decades, and Prudhoe Bay opened a new frontier for exploration departments to explore, Cook Inlet exploration virtually stopped for the next 30 years.
But then in 2000, Anchorage local markets, operators, regulators, and utilities grew concerned that the gas oversupply could no longer meet the demands of the Fertilizer, LNG, and local utility markets. Operators Union and Marathon then started exploring specifically for gas, and quickly discovered Ninilchik Field, as well as several other gas fields in the ensuing years. Twelve years later, in 2012 Chevron/Unocal sold, and in 2013 Marathon sold, their producing properties in the Cook Inlet to Hilcorp Alaska LLC.
Presently, in 2020, Hilcorp is exploring the Cook Inlet Basin for gas in the Upper Cook Inlet and Kenai Peninsula, to serve the market, and in the Lower Cook Inlet and Iniskin Peninsulas to evaluate both the oil and gas potential. With a modernized exploration toolbox, including additional surveys of many sorts, we’ve made our first discovery at Seaview Prospect, near Anchor Point, with dreams of many more discoveries to follow.
Dave Buthman is a Senior Geologist working Alaska New Ventures in Anchorage with Hilcorp Alaska LLC. The majority of his 38 years of experience has been in oil and gas exploration. After earning an MS in Geology from Southern Illinois University, he started the first 23 years of his career with Unocal, followed by 7 years at Chevron, and finished the last 8 years at Hilcorp. He is credited with dozens of significant discoveries in the Michigan and Cook Inlet Basins. Major assignments have included company acquisitions, global offshore oil and gas seep detection, gravity and magnetics, geologic field surveys, and impact crater studies. He has 18 works published in venues up to and including Geology magazine, and has served two terms as Secretary of the AGS.
Time: Doors open at 11:30 am, talk is from 12-1 pm