Shell Explores Plans for North Slope Development
Dutch oil major Shell is looking to further develop its North Slope oil position in Alaska. The company’s offshore unit applied to form the West Harrison Bay Unit offshore from the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska with plans for drilling and exploration.
The proposed West Harrison Bay Unit comprises 18 leases in West Harrison Bay approximately 34 miles northwest of the Colville River Unit. Shell holds 100% working interest in those 18 leases, covering more than 78,000 acres in the proposed unit.
The company is identifying partners to share in the risk and costs, with plans to drill exploration wells in the West Harrison unit with at least one sidetrack each in 2023 and 2024.
Because economic uncertainty from the pandemic and oil-price crash made negotiations difficult with potential partners, Shell requested the initial West Harrison Bay exploration plan to be for 5 years to allow enough time to find a partner and improve its plan.
The wells would target the Nanushuk oil formation first identified by the Repsol-Armstrong Energy partnership in the Pikka Unit. The shallow, conventional formation also forms the basis of ConocoPhillips’ large Willow oil prospect to the south of Harrison Bay and is believed by many in the industry to be prolific across much of the western North Slope.
Shell has been operating in Alaska since the 1950s when it began exploration in the Cook Inlet Basin. It acquired the West Harrison Bay leases in 2012, and redirected focus to the leases in 2017, generating five standalone prospects in the Nanushuk and multiple leads in the Torok formation and Jurassic Alpine-like plays.