Shell Offshore Inc., Houston, received awards for 84 oil and gas leases among the 117 leases awarded in the Beaufort Sea offshore Alaska as the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced winners of the latest Outer Continental Lease Sale 195. The acreage assembly marks a return to Alaska for Shell. The company says it believed it could build a significant position in Alaska, starting in the Beaufort. The MMS received more than $45 million in high bids in the sale.

Pioneer Natural Resources Co., Irving, Texas, farmed into the Cosmopolitan Unit of ConocoPhillips Alaska, in Alaska's Cook Inlet, with an agreement to acquire up to half of the unit and potentially become operator. According to Pioneer, three wells and a sidetrack have been drilled to date and have substantiated a significant oil column. The companies plan a 3-D seismic survey later this year.

The agreement starts Pioneer with a 10% interest. To earn additional shares, the company will pay a disproportionate percentage of the development costs. The unit covers some 25,000 acres approximately 120 miles southwest of Anchorage and two miles off the Kenai Peninsula.

Aspen Exploration Corp., Denver, found approximately 80 ft. of potential gas pay in Forbes zones shallower than 4,800 ft. at its #11 Johnson Unit in Malton Black Butte Field in Tehama County, Calif. The well is in Section 31-23n-3w. The company's #31-1 Merrill also encountered 200 ft. of potential net gas pay in Forbes and Kione intervals in the same field. Merrill Field has produced 140 billion cu. ft. of gas.

Carpinteria, Calif.-based Venoco Inc. will drill the #1 South Suisun wildcat in Solano County, Calif., to look for gas at an undisclosed depth. The well is in Section 10-3n-1w, some 6.2 miles northeast of Port Chicago, Calif. It is two miles southeast of Suisun Bay Field and 600 ft. northeast of the #1 Sangria well in the same section.

Tri-Valley Oil & Gas Co. will run production casing and attempt completion at its #1-32 Midland Trail wildcat in Railroad Valley, Nev., about 31 miles south-southwest o the town of Currant in Section 32-6n-56e, northeastern Nye County. According to IHS Energy, the well penetrated 100 ft. of Devonian lime with favorable mud log oil shows about 100 ft. high to the company's target. Tri-Valley planned a 7,500-ft. Devonian test.

The field is almost 11 miles southwest of Grant Canyon Field, the most prolific field discovered in Nevada at more than 20 million bbl. It produced from Devonian Guilmette/Simonson. The company says it plans two more wildcats in the state about 60 miles north of the Midland Trail well on its Oil Springs lease.

A third wildcat will be drilled in northeastern Utah by Denver independent Elk Resources Inc. The #13-15 Rogers, in Section 16-7s-20e in western Uintah County, is more than five miles east-southeast of the town of Randlett. According to IHS Energy, the well will look at Mesaverde gas potential to about 11,000 ft.

The closest gas production is 1.5 miles east where Brennan Bottom Field produces from zones shallower than 4,000 ft. The company also has permitted the #13-17 Wall to Mesaverde at 14,500 ft. a mile west of the new wildcat and the #3-22 Nielsen to Mesaverde at 11,000 ft. more than a mile east.

Wolverine Gas & Oil Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., has permitted another wildcat on the Utah Hingeline about two miles northeast of Salina in north-central Utah. The #21-1 Wolverine-Federal-Twist Canyon will drill directionally to evaluate the Navajo zone from a location in Section 17-21s-1e in northern Sevier County, to a bottomhole location southeast in Section 21 of the same township and range. The company anticipates a measured depth of 11,670 ft. with a true vertical depth of 9,400 ft.

The new well is about 14 miles north-northeast of Covenant Field, which the company discovered last year with the 317-1 Kings Meadows Ranches pumping an initial 803 bbl. of oil and 75 bbl. of water a day from First and Second Navajo zones. In that well's first 11 months online, it produced 228,060 bbl. of oil and 17,584 bbl. of water and enticed other companies to begin exploration on the Hingeline. The Twist Canyon wildcat is more than four miles west-northwest of an 8,297-ft. dry hole drilled in 1971.

Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp., Denver, posted an apparent discovery as it recovered oil on a drillstem test at a Mission Canyon wildcat 14 miles east-southeast of Plentywood in eastern Sheridan County in northeastern Montana. The #8-16 State, in Section 16-34n-57e, flowed 17 bbl. of oil to frac tanks and offered another 77 bbl. of oil in the pipe during a drillstem test of an interval between 7,570 and 7,615 ft. Kodiak and its partners control approximately 7,800 acres in the area.

The nearest production is from Lowell Field, about a mile southeast, where the #1-A Christensen pumped 107 bbl. of oil, 59.1 million cu. ft. of gas and 601,948 bbl. of water from Red River between July 1980 and October 1999. Recompleted in Mission Canyon in 2001, it produced 23,614 bbl. of oil and 272,874 bbl. of water through January 2005.

A remote wildcat 14 miles north of Red Lodge in Carbon County, Mont., is being planned by EOG Resources Inc., Houston. The company applied for a permit to drill a wildcat, yet to be named, in Section 14-5s-20e. The well presumably will evaluate Pennsylvanian and Mississippian zones, according to IHS Energy. The well is in a nonproducing township.

The closest production is almost 10 miles south-southeast in the Dry Creek/Dry Creek West field area, which produces from Cretaceous above 2,000 ft. Frontier at about 4,500 ft. and Greybull shallower than 6,600 ft. The closest dry hole was 1.5 miles northeast.

Headington Oil Co. LP, Dallas, completed an exploratory well as a discovery on the Nesson Anticline about 14 miles south of Tioga, N.D. The #11X-35 Hove in eastern Williams County produced an undisclosed amount of oil from on open-hole Bakken interval from 10,375 to 15,609 ft. entirely within Section 35-155n-95w. The company has asked North Dakota officials for spacing and field limits to develop the oil pool, according to IHS Energy.

The closest Bakken production is more than a mile south, where a 1967 well showed an initial potential of 756 bbl. of oil a day from a 61-ft. Bakken section and produced 62,700 bbl. of oil between September 1967 and July 1969.

A wildcat turned into a discovery for Houston-based M3 Energy LLC as it drilled its #1-16 Calf Women on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in eastern McKenzie County, N.D. The well, immediately west of Mandaree in Section 16-149n-94w, produced 47 bbl. of oil, 43,000 cu. ft. of gas and 162 bbl. of water a day from Madison perforations between 9,506-18 ft.

The well is about 1.5 miles north of the single-well Squaw Creek discovery, which was first completed in Red River and recompleted in Mission Canyon (Madison) to produce 288,229 bbl. of oil, 274.8 million cu. ft. of gas and 164,832 bbl. of water between late 1988 and March 2005.

Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. has asked for drilling permits for two exploratory wells to evaluate Muddy formation gas below the Owl Creek Thrust near Waltman Field in western Natrona County, Wyo. The company wants to drill the #44-7-36-86 East Bullfrog in Section 7-36n-86w off the southwestern flank of Waltman Field, a half-mile from a noncommercial test drilled to 20,105 ft.

The other well will be a deep test below 20,000 ft. at the #1 Bullfrog Unit in Section 6-36n-86w. That well was recompleted in 1997 and currently is inactive after producing 3.5 billion cu. ft. of gas from several Cretaceous and Jurassic zones.

Davis Petroleum Corp., Denver, plans three remote wildcats on the northwestern flank of the Denver-Julesburg Basin more than 16 miles northeast of Chugwater in Goshen County, Wyo. All three wells will test Muddy potential in Township 22n-65w. The #1-12 C in Section 12 will drill to 8,630 ft., the #8-24 J House in Section 24 is projected to 8,560 ft., and the #1-25 Smith is planned to 8,670 ft. in Section 35. The nearest production was more than 12 miles northwest in the abandoned Chugspring Field, which produced from Codell and Niobrara.

Edward Mike Davis, Houston, staked a 4,000-ft Jurassic test in southwestern Keith County, Neb., about 4.5 miles northwest of Brule, according to IHS Energy. The company's #41-1 Grapes, in Section 1-13n-41w, is approximately 10 miles east of Big Springs Field in Deuel County. That field has produced 39 million cu. ft. of gas, 17,550 bbl. of oil and condensate, and 177,900 bbl. of water from Niobrara and D Sand shallower than 3,400 ft. since its discovery in 1950.

Permits for two wildcats in Rio Blanco County, Colo., were requested by Riata Energy Inc., Amarillo, Texas. The wells are in the Piceance Basin about 23 miles southeast of Rangely. The company's #399-1-1 Federal is in Section 1-3s-99w, about a mile northeast of the second wildcat, the #399-2-1 Federal in Section 2 of the same township. Both wells will examine Wasatch and Mesaverde formations to 9,000 ft.

The nearest production came from an inactive two-well discovery 1.5 miles south-southeast, where the #2 Sulphur Creek South-Government was completed for 8 million cu. ft. of gas a day from Wasatch and Mesaverde.

V.F. Neuhaus Properties Inc., McAllen, Texas, has asked for permits to drill a remote wildcat some eight miles southeast of Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, Colo. The #18-1 Blue Creek-Federal, in Section 18-34n-1e, will look at formation through Dakota to 2,000 ft. The test is 1.25 miles east of a 47-year-old discovery that tested at three bbl. of oil a day from Greenhorn between 920-44 ft. and was never brought online.


Canadian firm PetroFalcon Corp. is moving ahead in northwestern Venezuela on a production block and a gas-exploration block, totaling some 1 million acres.

The company is currently producing about 800 barrels per day from La Vela and Cumarebo fields on its 400,000-acre producing block. La Vela, discovered in the 1920s, produces from shallow oil reservoirs at less than 3,500 feet. During the mid-1980s, the Venezuelan state oil company drilled several deeper tests that encountered oil and gas.

Last year, PetroFalcon reactivated two existing wells and this year, it drilled two new wells, the 7,200-foot LV-9X and the 10,000-foot LV-10X. The latter well encountered more than 500 ft. of potential reservoirs in five sand packages. At present, the company has a workover rig in the field and is testing the wells.

Cumarebo Field is another old oil field that PetroFalcon is redeveloping for its stranded gas reserves. The field is producing 600 barrels of oil per day, and has 15 million cubic feet of shut-in daily gas capacity. The 30-inch ICO pipeline, which is presently under construction, will reach the field at year-end, so the gas may be marketed.

PetroFalcon plans three additional wells this year, and expects to exit 2005 at 2,000 barrels of oil and 20 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Petrobras plans to complete exploration by year-end on the prolific BS-500 Block in the offshore Santos Basin, Brazil. So far, the company has reported 16 discoveries on the block, including Mexilhao. That field contains 14.8 trillion cu. ft. of gas and will be developed through a shallow-water platform with subsea wells in adjacent Block BS-400. First production is set for 2008, along with production from Cedro Field in the same block, according to Ogilvie's E&P Daily. Water depths in the northern part of BS-500 are greater than 1,500 meters.

Total SA, operator of the Cuenca Marina Austral-1 consortium, has inaugurated the Carina and Aries platforms offshore Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. The platforms have started producing gas at a rate of 141 million cu. ft. per day, with production expected to grow to 282 million per day. The consortium has invested $400 million in the project, which at one time included plans for a liquefied natural gas plant. The companies also could send gas to the Methanex Cabo Negro plant in Punta Arenas in Chile.

Carinas platform is in 80 meters of water about 80 kilometers offshore, and Aries is in 60 meters of water some 40 kilometers offshore. Production is sent to shore through an 80-kilometer multiphase pipeline. The consortium made the discovery some time ago, but wasn't able to proceed with development because there was no spare capacity on the 296-kilometer, 30-in. San Martin pipeline that links Tierra del Fuego to mainland Argentina. That pipeline is being expanded to handle the additional gas. Partners in the consortium are Wintershall and Pan American Energy.

Canadian firm Oilexco has discovered a new oil pool near MacCulloch Field in Block 15/24b, offshore the U.K. The company's 15/24b-8 well was the first of two slim-hole wells drilled from a single location to evaluate a seismic anomaly. The well penetrated 43 ft. of net pay in the main Paleocene sand with an oil-water contact at the same elevation as the original oil-water contact in MacCulloch Field. According to the company, 4-D seismic showed that oil hadn't been swept from the anomaly by the MacCulloch E1 horizontal well. That well has produced 10 million bbl. of oil.

Total SA is moving forward on what may be the first natural gas development West of Shetlands, offshore the U.K., looking at development opportunities for its Laggan discovery. The 206/4AZ well was drilled in 600 meters of water and tested at the rate of 37.8 million cu. ft. of gas per day. One option is a new-build floating production platform. Another is a 125-kilometer subsea tieback to Sullom Voe, similar to the gas tieback at Ormen Lange. If it puts a floater on the 206/1a Block it could choose a deep-draft, tension-leg platform with processing facilities. The subsea tieback option would tap into an existing pipeline from Clair Field, 35 kilometers away.

Toreador Resources Corp., Dallas, drilled and logged its Ayazli 3 well in the South Akcakoca sub-basin in the Black Sea, Turkey. Logs in the 1,335-meter well showed 44 meters of potential gas-producing sands in six intervals. The well bottomed approximately 1,100 meters southwest of the Ayazli 1 discovery, which tested 15 million cu. ft. of gas per day from 16 meters of gas pay in three zones. The rig will drill the Ayazli 2 from the same location as the #3 and test both at the same time. The #2 will bottom 380 meters southwest of the discovery. Toreador and partners TPAO, the Turkish state oil company, and Stratic Energy Corp. plan five more wells.

Petro-Canada is planning to drill a well offshore Tunisia after having plugged and abandoned an onshore test. The 2,800-meter Medoun-1 well was the first test drilled by Petro-Canada following its farm-in on the permit, which was previously held by Centurion Energy. Now Petro-Canada has contracted a jack-up rig to drill the first offshore prospect. The rig will be available in the fourth quarter, and take approximately 40 days to reach total well depth.

Italy's ENI brought the second phase of the massive West Jamahiriya gas project onstream, hooking up the first well from Sea of Peace Field to the Sabratha platform, 110 kilometers off Libya's west coast. The company plans to take the field's production to 1 billion cu. ft. of gas and 65,000 bbl. of liquids a day, and to sell the gas into the undersea pipeline to the Italian gas system.

Premier Oil will drill two wells offshore Guinea Bissau in the first quarter, following two unsuccessful wells off the coast earlier this year. The new wells will test the Eirozes and possibly the Espinafre prospects, according to Ogilvie's E&P Daily. The U.K. company found oil at its Sinapa-2 well last year, but it hasn't declared the discovery commercial. It has exploration rights in blocks 2, 4a and 5a and is working the flanks of salt diapirs.

Total SA has finally signed up for deepwater OPL 223 offshore southeast Nigeria. Negotiations for the block foundered last year after the authorities told the French firm that a government subsidiary was to take a stake. The block lies in water depths of between 200 and 1,000 meters, and is just east of OPL 222 where Total has made the Ukot and Usan discoveries.

Total is the operator of the new permit and holds a 90% stake, and Nigerian Petroleum Development Co. holds 10%. It remains unclear if NPDC will have to pay its own way. NPDC's interests in blocks across the country are being accelerated as the authorities try to ensure it becomes an efficient operator in its own right.

Elf Aquitaine, which is now part of Total, was awarded the block in 1990 in the country's first deepwater licensing round, but the acreage was involved in a border dispute with Cameroon over the Bakassi Peninsula. Three dry holes have been drilled on the license.

ExxonMobil has extended its interests in Madagascar by farming into two blocks offshore the East African island held by Sterling Energy. The U.K. independent previously held 100% of the Ambilobe and Ampasindava licenses. They cover approximately 8,031 sq. miles and 5,076 sq, miles respectively, in the Ambilobe and the Majunga basins.

ExxonMobil will pay for a significant exploration work program in return for a 70% interest in the licenses. The major committed to undertake technical studies and 2-D seismic acquisition, and assuming a positive outcome, to finance 3-D seismic and drill up to two wells per license.

Last year, ExxonMobil and Norsk Hydro farmed-in to Vanco Energy's exploration license in the Majunga Basin, adjacent to the Ampasindava license.

China's Sinopec and Uzbekistan's Uzneftegaz signed an agreement to explore the Andijan and Namangan oblasts in Uzbekistan. Sinopec, the operator of the project, plans an initial investment of $106 million. More than half of that will go to exploration.

Also in Uzbekistan, Malaysia's Petronas has entered an exploration project to explore the Aral Sea Basin and in the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic. According to the Uzbek government, the nation's 190 oil and gas fields contain proven reserves of more than 26.4 billion bbl. of oil equivalent.

Teikoku Oil received Japanese government approval to drill an offshore well between Okinawa and China in disputed territory in the East China Sea, according to Agence France-Presse. A Chinese discovery in the area is in Chinese water, but Japan contends the discovery could tap a reservoir that extends into Japanese territory. Attempts to negotiate a settlement have failed.

--Don Lyle, Rebecca Torrellas and Peggy Williams