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CA Deep-Drilling Turns Up High Quality Oil/Gas; Volumes Still Undetermined

CA Deep-Drilling Turns Up High Quality Oil/Gas; Volumes Still Undetermined

After several weeks of field testing, sponsors of a high-profile, deep-drilling project in the southern end of California's San Joaquin Valley reported Thursday (June 22) "pure, sweet oil" with an API gravity of 48.6 degrees and associated natural gas with a very high net Btu content of 1,460 with no water. However, definitive information on the projected volumes is still several weeks away, according to Tri-Valley Oil & Gas Co., operator of the Project Ekho No. 1 well about 45 miles northwest of Bakersfield, CA.

The natural gas is "very clean," said Lynn Blystone, Tri-Valley CEO, noting that it should not require a lot of processing. Volumes eventually could determine if the gas is used directly near the well site or whether it has to go through processing prior to being put in the state's transmission pipeline network. Original quality estimates were for oil of 41 or 42-gravity range, and gas Btu content around 1,250, Blystone said. (The average Btu of gas distributed by local utilities is around 1,000 Btu.)

"We don't have a valid flow test yet, but we are pleased with the porosity, saturation and, of course, the quality of the oil and gas in the formation," Blystone said. "We still need to find out what the permeability is going to be. That is the unknown; the known is the fact that we have the desired porosity, saturation and quality of the hydrocarbons in about 660 feet of oil sand. We have confirmed that we have the oil/gas in the formations we've been going after, but now we have to confirm we can get it out, too.

"What remains to be seen is do we have the kind of delivery rate that would justify a cogeneration plant on site to convert it to energy right there, or do we have to process it so it can go in the pipeline. That's another question." He said if processing is required, Tri-Valley would consider building a pipeline to get the gas to a nearby processing plant that Chevron Corp. operates at Lost Hills, CA.

Blystone said the additional flow testing should be completed by mid-July.

Tri-Valley used what it calls an "open-hole completion" and that may have contributed to the boring getting plugged, Blystone said. In deep drilling like this well at the 19,085-foot level, he said, the operators have had to use extremely heavy mud and it could have contributed to the blockage that has prevented what he calls a "true flow test."

According to Tri-Valley's web site-based report, the Ehko No.1 is still regarded as the first of three wells in a comprehensive program to determine the potential of deep structures (below 15,000 feet) over a geologically mapped area covering about 26 miles long and four or five miles wide. This expanse in one of the nation's oldest and most productive oil/gas production areas is what Tri-Valley is betting will be "the largest onshore oil/gas play in North America." Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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