No major news from Buccaneer

Buccaneer Alaska Operations updated city officials and the public on the oil and gas company’s current southern Kenai Peninsula operations and plans for the future, with an emphasis on the West Eagle drilling project, at three presentations this week. The first was at the regular meeting of the Homer City Council on Monday, followed by a public meeting at Best Western Bidarka Inn Tuesday evening and a third meeting at McNeil Canyon Elementary School on Wednesday.

“There’s no major news, but we want to update the community on the progress, especially of West Eagle,” Buccaneer spokesperson Jay A. Morakis of JMR Worldwide, said in a phone interview from his New York office. “The truth of it is that we want to address concerns of the local community. This is what good, responsible operators do in communities that may be affected by work we’re doing.” 

Representing Buccaneer at the meetings were Christina Anderson, environmental and stakeholder relations manager, and Mark Landt, Buccaneer’s chief land man.

The West Eagle project is located on an 8,000-acre unit off East End Road and Basargin Road, 21 miles east of Homer, 6.7 miles from McNeil Canyon School and about four miles from the Russian Old Believer communities of Voznesenka and Razdolna. The state of Alaska owns the subsurface rights to the area, while the Kenai Peninsula Borough is the surface owner, with portions of that area leased for grazing and a gravel pit.

The well is a gas test. Drilling is expected to take 30-45 days and go as deep as 8,000 feet.

Drilling waste will be hauled to a permanent landfill in the Kenai area or be injected into a permitted disposal well in Kenai.

During August, Buccaneer plans to have a grand opening for its Homer Office, located at 412 Pioneer Ave. 

“It will be mainly a logistics center and we are currently talking to people about manning the office,” said Landt. 

Improvements to portions of East End Road, specifically widening two hairpin turns near mile 16.7, will begin in preparation for moving the Glacier drilling rig from its current location at the Kenai Loop Well near Walmart to the West Eagle site in September. 

“It is light-weight and was built in 2001 by Marathon for the Kenai Peninsula urban areas,” said Landt. “It’s very quiet and very transportable.”

It is anticipated to take 40 truckloads seven days to move the rig from Kenai to Homer. 

Also during August, grading equipment will be transported to West Eagle for construction of a pad and a temporary office. Construction buildings will be set up on the pad and training will be held for the 17-person crew that will operate the rig.

“About 60 percent of the crew has worked on this rig for a good part of the time it’s been in Alaska. They’re very experienced,” said Landt.

Council member David Lewis asked if local hire was being considered for the project.

“Some support service will be local hire,” said Landt. “We’re talking about locals for the office. Most of the crews are from Alaska. Most from Kenai.”

In September, Buccaneer will coordinate with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities the rig move. Truck traffic to and from the pad will haul water, waste and supplies. The rig crews will work 12-hour shift rotations, transported to the West Eagle site in crew buses from the Pioneer Avenue office in order to minimize traffic.

In October, the crew will continue shift rotations and Buccaneer plans to complete well testing and either plug and abandon the well or suspend activities at the well in accordance with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission permit. Removal of the rig from the site and its return to Kenai will be coordinated with ADOT&PF.

In addition to the AOGCC permit to drill, other permits already approved for the project include the:

• Plan of operation, approved by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources;

• Temporary water use permits, approved by ADNR;

• Minor general air permit, approved by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation;

• Authorization for temporary storage of drilling waste, approved by ADEC; and

• Land use permit, approved by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Still to be approved by the ADEC is Buccaneer’s oil spill contingency plan, known as the C-Plan.

“Water obviously is a hot topic,” said Landt, adding that “since we don’t see sufficient water in the area,” most of the 1,000-50,000 gallons needed daily during drilling operations will be hauled in.  

Options for obtaining the water include contracting with a local company to transport it to the site and possibly using water from the city of Homer.

“We’ll look for water at any available source,” said Landt. “If that’s Anchor Point then that’s what we have to do. We have to go where it’s permitted and we can get it.”

If well tests are encouraging, three-dimensional seismic surveys would be used to determine the size of the formation.

“Then we would most likely come back in the next year, drill additional wells to delineate the discovery and from that make a determination whether it’s commercial and look at pipeline routes,” said Landt. “That’s when we’d start permitting for pipelines and infrastructure for what would be needed out there.”

Before beginning a question and answer period at the Bidarka Inn meeting, Landt emphasized Buccaneer’s interest in receiving public input.

“We recognize this is a burden on the community, to the individuals who use East End Road, so we have cards we’ve put together that are available for any comments, suggestions, anything we need to know,” he said of cards available at the meetings that could be left in a drop box at the Homer office location until the office opens. “During the period of operations here, we plan to have an individual staffed at the office as a point of contact.”

Asked by Homer resident Rika Mouw what measurement was used by Buccaneer to decide if the West Eagle well was a success, Landt said there were numerous considerations. During the process, real-time measurements of the formation would be reviewed. The cost to develop the reserve, including the costly hurdle of transporting the gas from West Eagle to a refinery, also would be used to “make a determination of whether we can make a reasonable investment,” said Landt.

Referring to the Valdez oil spill of 1989, Roberta Highland, president of the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, said, “This whole development is heartbreaking for me because the Homer area has been very vocal for a very long time that we did not want to have oil-gas development in or nearby the area.”

Stressing a “four E” approach to development that looks at the environment, economy, energy and ethics, Highland asked if Buccaneer “had done any operations in a place where you really weren’t welcome before. Is this your first experience with having adversarial feelings by some of the community?”

Landt pointed to the relationship Buccaneer has developed with Kenai.

“We have a good working relationship and things have worked out. I really hope that it’ll work here,” said Landt. “We think our drilling and exploration is really compatible with the local community. We think we’ll just blend in. You’ll get used to us.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at

At A Glance/Buccaneer 

During recent public meetings, Buccaneer Alaska Operations Chief Land Man Mark Landt provided updates on the company’s Cosmopolitan State No. 1 offshore project near Stariski. After eight months at the Homer Deepwater Dock, the jack-up rig Endeavour-Spirit of Independence moved in late March to the Cosmopolitan site. Landt said oil zones were found deeper than anticipated and the plan “is to save the well as gas-producing as opposed to an oil well.” Once testing is complete, which is expected within the next few weeks, the rig will be moved to the Southern Cross location in the upper Cook Inlet.