Hilcorp plan for Tyonek Platform open to public comment

Oct 13, 2020

This graphic from Hilcorp's application shows where the Tyonek Platform stands in relation to other platforms in the Cook Inlet.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is now accepting public comment on a plan by Hilcorp Alaska LLC to move a jack-up rig to the Tyonek Platform in Cook Inlet. The department issued a preliminary approval for Hilcorp’s plan Oct. 5.

The rig in question is a Spartan 151 jack-up rig, currently in storage in Seward. The Tyonek Platform, where it would be stationed, is the northernmost platform in the inlet and a previous asset of ConocoPhillips. Hilcorp, an independent energy company with a history of reviving old drilling infrastructure, bought the North Cook Inlet oil field in 2016.

Petroleum News reported that the company says it has prepared a plan of development for a known pool below the oil field. Phillips Petroleum, the predecessor to ConocoPhillips, previously tested wells there, but the company never went through with development.

The gas produced at that platform is transported to the Kenai Liquefied Natural Gas Plant in Nikiski, according to the DEC’s technical analysis report. 

The rig itself has an interesting history. Furie Operating Alaska — then Escopeta Oil and Gas — brought the rig to Alaska from Texas in 2011 in a Chinese-operated ship. That transport violated the U.S. Jones Act, a 100-year-old law that mandates U.S.-owned ships be used to transport cargo between U.S. ports, and Furie was fined $10 million.

Furie went bankrupt in 2019. Hilcorp is now the primary gas producer in the inlet.

The Spartan rig was used in the discovery of natural gas in the Kitchen Lights Unit of Cook Inlet. It then went into storage in Granite Point, Seward, where it still sits.

According to Hilcorp’s application, the Spartan 151 rig has “11 diesel-fired internal combustion engines and four diesel storage tanks.” Most of those engines are used for drilling.

Brain Hirsch of DEC said Hilcorp submitted a permit application March 18.

He said there was nothing unique about this particular permitting process. 

“Permitees are required to apply for an air quality permit in order to relocate a portable oil and gas operation from one facility to another,” he said.

Should the project be approved, it is expected to begin in early-to-mid-2021.

Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4. DEC will move forward with a final decision about whether to approve or deny the permit once public comments have been collected. DEC will hold a public hearing if one is requested, according to the Oct. 5 public notice.

Comments should either be addressed to Brian Hirsch by mail, to PO Box 111800, Juneau AK 99811, by facsimile at (907) 465-5129, or via email to brian.hirsch@alaska.gov.

For links to Hilcorp’s application and DEC’s public notice, visit the DEC Division of Air Quality site, here. The ID for this project is AQ0091MSS04A.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly listed the purchaser of the Kitchen Lights Unit. It was purchased by HEX last year. KDLL regrets the error.