I’ve wondered out loud on several occasions how smallish independents can compete for drilling and development opportunities with their larger brethren. What do smaller independents do when a big company moves into a promising play and puts 300,000, 600,000, or even 1,400,000 acres in their lease bank? In some cases, they follow the Star Trek mission statement:
To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before…
But to Idaho?
The Potato State? The place I ran around as a know-nothing college intern sampling the Pahsimeroi Valley countryside trying to determine whether a molybdenum mine near Challis made any sense?
Really? … Really.
Drilling Outside the Box
Bridge Energy opened up the area in Payette County with a number of wells that targeted what reports called lacustrine reservoirs. The company recently joined forces with AM Idaho, a subsidiary of Houston-based Alta Mesa Holdings, and Snake River Oil. With 7 gas wells shut-in and waiting on pipelines, one well testing, two permitted but undrilled locations and three unapproved permits, the companies look poised for some very interesting exploration and development work.
Trudging through the literature, I found a paper written by Mont M. Warner published in the Montana Geological Society titled “Cenozoic Marker Beds of Southern Idaho.” The paper contains a map with outcrops of the Pliocene Chalk Hills formation. It looks like the Chalk Hills were deformed by uplift into an anticlinal nose that apparently plunges nearly due west into the play area. Warner describes the Chalk Hills as “A lacustrine deposit of interbedded silty ashy clay, sand, and pure vitric ash…It also contains a broadly spread biostrome of algal limestone, twenty to thirty feet thick. This reef is approximately 200 feet below the top of the formation…In most places, the Chalk Hills Formation is capped by a layer of oolitic limestone [emphasis added].”
I have no idea whether Bridge actually encountered them, but their objectives have been variously described as the Hamilton sands at Total Depths (TDs) around 2,500 feet and the Willow sands around 6,000 feet. If their T7N, R4W wells are any indication, they apparently have Shut-in (SI) production coming at TDs between 2,500 and 4,500 feet. They are also waiting for approval on a permit that will allow them to test the Columbia River Basalt at 7,000 feet, though it’s still not clear if that’s the drilling target or the formation at TD.
Interestingly, Geokinetics was hired to conduct 3D seismic operations in an area that is tightly constrained to image either on strike or updip of most of the SI wells. The company filed a seismic permit on August 15, 2012 that anticipates data collection through October 31st of this year.
As explorationists we are too prejudiced. We look at clastic-rich basins that are well away from tectonic complications and thermal maturity-killers like adjacent instrusives. As a result, we often write off areas that we should look more closely at. Hats off to Bridge for breaking away from the pack to discover the play, and to AM Idaho/Snake River Oil for stepping up to the plate to buy the assets and invest additional capital in 3D.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think explorationists should learn from Bridge and cast wider nets? Please, leave a comment below.