Junior explorer 88 Energy (ASX: 88E) and its consortium partners Otto Energy (ASX: OEL) and Red Emperor Resources (ASX: RMP) are gearing up to spud the Winx-1 exploration well after receiving drilling approval from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The news of the permit green light was announced by the trio in separate statements to the ASX, with the approval making the last major regulatory step required for drilling operations to begin.
It comes only a few weeks after the partners submitted the drilling permit.
As a result of the approval, 88 Energy said it remained on track to begin drilling at Winx-1 in mid to late February.
On the logistical front, construction of a 17km ice road to the planned well location was proceeding on schedule with 50% of works complete. Once finished, a rig will be mobilised for drilling which is anticipated to take place in early February.
88 Energy managing director Dave Wall thanks the Alaskan regulatory bodies for getting the well permitted in a “timely fashion” and highlighted some early exploration success in the area.
“It is also worth noting that the first exploration/appraisal well of the season, Pikka-B, has been reported as encountering high porosity, hydrocarbon bearing sand in the Nanushuk formation, on trend and 15 miles to the north of Winx,” he added.
The trio executed formal agreements to farm into the acreage last July, with 88 Energy taking over as operator.
Under the deal, the consortium is required to drill a commitment well before 30 May 2019 to earn 90% of private company Great Bear Petroleum’s working interest (88 Energy 36%/Otto 22.5%/Red Emperor 31.5%).
The Nanushuk Topset play
Winx-1, in Alaska’s North Slope, sits about 6km east of Armstrong-Repsol’s 2017 discovery well, Horseshoe-1/1A.
At the time, the find was hailed as the largest conventional onshore US discovery in more than 30 years.
Respol isn’t the only company uncovering massive gas fields in the North Slope in recent years, with ConocoPhillips discovering a 300-million-barrel of oil find in the Nanushuk. The Nanushuk is exactly what interests Otto and its ASX-listed partners.
The primary objective of the Winx-1 exploration well is the Nanushuk Topset play, targeting the Nanushuk 4 and 5 sands.
According to Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, the Nanushuk tends to have superior reservoir quality due to matrix winnowing and less compaction.
In 2017, analyst and research firm Wood Mackenzie said it expected the Nanushuk to play a vital role for future greenfield development on the North Slope.
The Winx-1 well will target a gross best estimate prospective resource of 400MMbbl of oil.