Buccaneer shares seismic study plans at townhall meeting | Pineandlakes.com - Pineandlakes Echo Journal

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Buccaneer shares seismic study plans at townhall meeting

Posted: December 15, 2011 - 3:45am  |  Updated: December 15, 2011 - 1:55pm
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Photo by M. Scott Moon
A standing room only crowd listens Tuesday night to the details of Buccaneer Energy Alaska’s plans for a 3D seismic survey for natural gas in areas in and around Kenai during a town hall meeting at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.

Buccaneer Energy hosted a townhall meeting Tuesday at the Challenger Center in Kenai to explain some of its plans for seismic studies to the community.

The independent oil and gas company has plans for seismic testing in the Kenai area. That work is meant to inform the positioning of future natural gas wells tapping into the Kenai Loop natural gas pool.

Tuesday, representatives of Buccaneer and its contractor Weems talked to at least 187 members of the public about what the studies mean for residents of the area.

Buccaneer’s subsidiary, Buccaneer Alaska, has drilled two wells at its Kenai Loop development near WalMart. One of those wells is scheduled to start producing natural gas by the end of the month. The company wants to do seismic work to get a better sense of the gas formation before drilling a third well.

The exact location of the seismic work is unknown. The company sent 2,269 letters notifying property owners and others that the studies would be in their area. Some of the work will be done in neighborhoods around Kenai, including the area near WalMart, and other work will be done farther from the roads.

“We’re not disclosing it to the public,” said John Land, the permitting
coordinator for Weems, the contractor hired to oversee the project.

That’s for confidentiality reasons. The company has to file a map of the study area with the Department of Natural Resources, but it will be kept confidential, Land said.

“As competitive as the industry is worldwide, you have to be careful,” he said.

Buccaneer has access to subsurface minerals through permissions from the state of Alaska, the Alaska Mental Health Trust and Cook Inlet Region Inc., each of which owns subsurface rights in the area Buccaneer is studying. But the seismic work requires equipment above ground, so its looking for permission from the land owners to do that work.

At a teleconference last week, Buccaneer’s Chief Executive Officer Curtis Burton said the seismic study will help the company identify where the gas is, and how much there might be. Right now, the company has 2-D seismic work, subsurface mapping and logs of wells in the area that suggest quite a bit of gas is buried beneath the ground. Work done by third-party engineers suggest that there is a significant amount of gas. The seismic work is meant to confirm that, and provide more information on its location.

“The 3-D helps you to better identify what the structure looks like,” Burton said.

But first, Buccaneer is working through the permitting process for its
seismic efforts.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Land talked about the proposed work, which will be done by several contractors working for Weems.

Weems is trying to get signed agreements from landowners before it does the seismic work. The company is responsible for any damage it does, Land said.

“We leave your property the way we found it,” Land said.

Landowners are asked to write in any conditions to their permits. Land told community members Tuesday that they can ask for 48 hours’ notification before Buccaneer’s contractors begin seismic testing in their neighborhood or on their street, set certain terms about when and where the contractors can access their property, or add other conditions.

“Hand write that into your permit ― these are the structures, this is the distance” Land said.

Weems will compile all of those conditions into one database, and remind the contractors to follow them each day.

Land said he hopes to finish the seismic work by early march, and have the results for Buccaneer by April. Then, Buccaneer plans to use the results in deciding where to drill its next well.

Buccaneer does not yet have all of the required permits from other agencies.
Land said they are getting the information and paperwork together to apply for permits from the city of Kenai, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the state. They intend to apply for those by the end of this week, or early next week, Land said.

Rick Koch, Kenai’s city manager, said the project will need special-use
permits to use the right-of-way permits that houses city roads and some adjacent land. That permit goes through the city manager’s office, but Koch said he expected to update Kenai’s city council throughout the process. The city looks toward protecting its assets as well as adjacent landowners, Koch said.

The exact specifications of the seismic work will be developed in the coming weeks. Depending on the foundation and surface, someone inside a typical home might think a garbage truck is driving by, Land said. The caravan doing the road will travel through neighborhoods, with each test point taking a fairly short amount of time.

“The length of time will vary, but I think three minutes is always a good average to go with,” Land said.

Land said Weems hopes to start working after the holidays.

“We work first light to 30 minutes before sundown,” Land said.
The seismic work will start with surveying the area to be studied. As part of the surveying process, Land said Weems wants to know about any potential hazards or concerns that might not be easily spotable ­­― like underground wells or other structures. Landowners are asked to help point those out. Those will get marked with GPS so that the company knows to stay a certain
distance from them.

After surveying and delineating exactly where all the testing will be done, Peak Particle Velocity Testing will be done to determine how fast energy put into the ground travels. That testing is done in two parts, with a preliminary low-drive sweep to get a feel for the area and the conditions before the testing is done at each spot. Assuming each sweep goes well, the vibrators will do the main work of sending energy to the ground. That’s when the area may rumble as if a train were going by.

In some places, where there isn’t road access, a contractor will use a
helicopter to bring equipment for shot hole drilling.

The company has some precautions in place to protect wells and other structures.
Before and after the seismic tests, a contractor will do flow testing on wells, to ensure that a homeowner’s water supply doesn’t change. They will also document the condition of each structure before testing begins, and do a sweep at the end to make sure nothing has changed.

Most of the work will be done from the road. And in the off-road areas being studied, the
contractor will use natural clearings to do its tests before taking out any shrubbery, Land said.

Weems does not have experience in Alaska, but Land said that many of the contractors using the equipment do. They know to adapt for different conditions as the initial sweep dictates.

During a question-and-answer session at the end of the presentation, Land said that if a property owner chooses not to return a signed agreement, the work will likely continue. In some cases, the contractors may just stay on roads and off the property, but generally they’d rather talk to the property owner and come to an agreement over their concerns. Ultimately, Land said that Buccaneer’s access to the subsurface minerals gives them a strong case to be on the surface.

“The surface is always subordinate to the minerals,” he said.

Land said that even if a homeowner doesn’t sign off on the project, the contractors are responsible for, and will take care, of any damage done. The exact timeline for filling claims is unknown. The idea that some damage might be hard to see was brought up at the meeting.

Land said Wednesday he was going to followup on that issue with others in the company on Friday. It could be a problem for both sides ― Weems might not know whether damage is pre-existing, and property owners might not be aware of a problem until after breakup.

Right now, there are four people working on the permitting effort. That number will increase to 60 or 70 as the work progresses. Most of those will come from the contractors, and be specific skilled labor jobs. There is a possibility of local hire for some of the jobs, Land said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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