Published October 2016
Now that the Tolsona gas well has been spudded – that’s industry jargon for beginning drilling – the pace of activity has intensified, and much of it involves Ahtna’s shareholder-owners.
“Ahtna is proud to serve as the owner-operator of this program and ‘spudding’ of our first well is an important milestone in our efforts to explore the natural-gas potential in our region and help combat the rural energy crisis. It has taken years of preparation to get to where we are today, and we are optimistic of a significant find,” said Ahtna President Michelle Anderson. “We continue to be focused on operating at the highest safety standards and helping to create local jobs for our shareholders.”
Ahtna Construction completed the road and pad work last spring, Ahtna Environmental Services managed all contract opportunities, and Alaska-based contractors, such as Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska (PRA), are providing drilling-support services.
AEI has offered employment to five shareholder-owners for roustabout, safety/security and material handler expeditor positions. A roustabout is a general-maintenance worker at the drill site. Three additional shareholder-owners went through the entire hiring process to be ready to step in or supplement other employees, if needed.
An intern shareholder-owner is working a noon-to-midnight schedule. This allows the intern to work with both of the company representatives and observe both shifts’ work activities.
Human Resources and Shareholder Development worked with subcontractors to place shareholder-owners in positions wherever possible. As the work progresses, “We do expect more opportunities. Everyone associated with the project knows the two top priorities are safety and shareholders,” reports Starr Knighten, shareholder development coordinator.
Ahtna Construction and Primary Products Corporation (ACPPC) touched up the road and pad to handle the heavy hauls associated with the rig. The 2 million-pound drill rig, required materials and rolling stock equipment were transported from the Kenai Peninsula in over 40 truckloads by Lynden Transport.
The entire mobilization was complex, with supplies coming from Prudhoe Bay, Cook Inlet and other locations throughout Alaska and the Lower 48. “We have contracted with the best in Alaska’s drilling business to manage our field activities,” Tom Maloney, Ahtna Netiye’ CEO said.
The well is behind schedule due to uncertainties over the status of state oil and gas credits, which funded a significant part of the seismic work and site preparation – and now the drilling. “Ahtna would not be doing this exploration if the tax credits were not in place,”
The project is on state land and is targeting thick sandstone at depths between 4,000 and 5,000 feet. The drilling is being done with a Saxson rig owned by the global drilling company Schlumberger. About 50 Alaskans are working at the drill site. Drilling is expected to be completed in late October, when the well will be secured and the drill site cleaned up.
Drilling for a better future
The Tolsona gas well being drilled 11.5 miles west of Glennallen could lead to a new energy source that would alleviate the high cost of energy in the Copper River region and create good-paying jobs in the area.
“We are optimistic of a resource discovery that will help address the rural energy crisis in the Ahtna region,” said Ahtna President Michelle Anderson. “A substantial discovery would benefit not only the Ahtna region, but the state at large. It would provide a boost to the economy by putting Alaskans to work and help alleviate the high energy costs that many residents experience.”
Ahtna has reason to be optimistic. A well drilled about two miles east of the Tolsona well encountered gas in 2007, but had to be abandoned because of high downhole pressures and problems with water encroachment.