Exxon Mobil starts production at Point Thomson on Alaska's North Slope

The project is being developed by ExxonMobil as the operator, with other major partners including BP, ConocoPhillips and Leede Operating Company.                                                                                                 


Point Thomson field, located approximately 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay on the coast of the Beaufort sea, is estimated to hold eight trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas accounting for around 25% of the total estimated gas resources in Alaska's North Slope area.


Initial production of 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gas condensate from the field is expected to start by 2016. The budget to bring the field into production is estimated to be $1.3bn.

History of the Point Thomson field

The Point Thomson leases were first acquired by Richfield Oil, Humble Oil and BP Exploration in 1965. ExxonMobil discovered oil at the field in 1975 and gas in 1977. Up to 17 exploration wells were drilled by 1983, and two additional wells the PTU 15 and PTU 16 were recently drilled to initiate production from the field.

Alaska North Slope Oil and Gas Project, United States of America

In August 2000, the sponsors of the Alaska North Slope LNG group announced that they were to continue efforts to economically produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the North Slope area of Alaska.

Point Thomson Project details

The field development covering an area of approximately 150 square miles involves the construction of three well pads: the central pad covering an area of 49 acres, and the east and west pads located about four miles each from the central pad and covering 18 acres each.

Gas injection and producer wells, and a disposal well will be drilled from the central pad, while the development wells will be drilled from the east and west pads. The east and west pads will also house production and metering facilities. The pads will be connected by an infield gravel road system and infield gathering lines.

The wells are being drilled using the Nabors Alaska 27-E drilling rig, which was upgraded for the project, with an investment of $35m.

The project's central processing facility (CPF), to be located on the central pad, will be powered by natural gas produced from the field, while diesel stored in four storage tanks will be used as a back-up fuel primarily during winter. The facility will possess a treatment capacity of about 200 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD).

Conveyance pipeline

An insulated pipeline measuring 22 miles in length and 12 inches in diameter will convey the gas condensate from the field to the existing Badami common carrier pipeline, which connects to the Trans-Alaska pipeline system (TAPS). The pipeline facility is designed to accommodate future increase in production of up to 70,000 bpd.

Infrastructure at Point Thomson

On-site facilities including an airstrip, a service pier and a permanent camp for workers were constructed by Alaska Frontier Constructors.

More than 2,200 vertical pipeline supports have been installed at the site as of September 2013 while ice roads have been constructed to support construction activities during the winter seasons.

An emergency flare system will be installed adjacent to the central pad, to burn certain natural gas released when pipelines and facilities are depressurised for maintenance, or during an emergency situation. A gravel mine will also be developed to support construction activities, and the pit will later be converted into a water reservoir to provide freshwater during operations.

Other infrastructure at the site includes offices, warehouses, shops, water and chemical storage facilities, water and wastewater treatment plants, a grind and inject module, and waste management facilities.

Technology at Point Thomson

ExxonMobil, one of the world's biggest oil and gas companies, will implement extended-reach directional drilling method from the onshore pads to collect the resources from the offshore areas where half of the field's resources are located. The drilling will be extended to almost two miles offshore at a depth of 11,000ft.

The project will also incorporate the pressure gas cycling process, which involves the initial production of gas and liquids simultaneously, followed by the separation of condensate liquids from gas on surface and re-injection of the gas to the reservoir to maintain pressure.

Contractors involved

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), and project management services for the project are being provided by WorleyParsons and Flour. PND Engineers will provide the infrastructure and civil design for the project, while Michael Baker Jr. will develop the pipeline design.

"More than 2,200 vertical pipeline supports have been installed at the site as of September 2013."

CH2M HILL Alaska has been subcontracted to install the production system modules in partnership with ASRC Energy Services. The former will also fabricate and install the standby power-generation module, which will provide backup power at the site throughout 2014.

Kentz, in collaboration with Jago Contracting Management, has been contracted to mobilise the engineering employees in California and personnel for fabrication in Korea, and carry out commissioning activities on-site.

Haskell Corporation was contracted to fabricate the four diesel storage tanks. The tanks were transported by Foss from the fabrication yard at Anacortes, Washington, to the project site using two barges, two ocean-going tugs and two shallow-draft assist tugs. UIC Bowhead-Crowley has been awarded the contract to provide shuttling freight services to the site during the pad development.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project was prepared by US Army Corps of Engineers.

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