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The Drilling of Atlantic No. 3

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Atlantic No, 3 was dogged from the very beginning. The well was spudded January 21, 1948; 300 ft, of 15 in. hole drilled and 10¾ in. casing run to 296 ft. This was insufficient surface casing for the location because at total depth, the hole was still in unconsolidated sands and glacial material. There is some question of an adequate cement job; only 150 sacks were used. Additional cement (7 sacks) was batched in to fill the annulus on January 23. There must have been enough cement to bond otherwise the wild well should have hydraulicked the casing out of the hole later on.

Atlantic's (G.P.'s) boilers were fired with Viking gas, augmented at times by solution gas from the Atlantic tank farm, Nevertheless, drilling was slowed by periodic shortages, When the D-2 was reached, coring and testing revealed non-porous dolomite. lt was thirty-four days from move-in to reaching the D-3 on February 18.

A Schlumberger electric log was run at 5,267 ft., just into the D-3. This was to provide a valuable guide later on. The SP and Normal curves indicated the presence of gas in the Viking sand (there were no sonic or radio-activity logs in those days!). As "Tip" Moroney was to reflect many years later: "We may not have had a blow-out if the Viking had not been gas-bearing".1 The D-2, being non-porous, was not a factor in later operations.

Leduc Oil FieldTo give a proper perspective of the D-3 reservoir at Atlantic No. 3, it was encountered at -2,909 ft. subsea2 (5,265 ft. drilled depth), some 71 ft. above the known gas/oil interface of -2,980 ft. (5,336 ft. , drilled depth). The program called for drilling to 5,354 ft. and a long string to be hung at 5,349 ft. (-2,995 ft. subsea). This would leave 5 ft. of open hole "barefoot", which would be In the middle of the oil zone. Successful completions at Atlantic No. 1 and 2 had used that technique to eliminate perforating and cut down on acidizing costs. The oil/water interface was at -3,018 ft. subsea (5,376 ft., below surface) but no hole would normally be drilled that deep.

Drilling had only just resumed after logging when the mud level in the hole dropped out of sight, despite the use of gel-flake, Sawdust and oats. The D-3 was showing signs this would be no Ordinary "lost circulation situation" Other D-3 holes in the Leduc field had been trouble makers (even Atlantic No. 2) but circulation had been restored in a matter of hours. Home-Leduc No. 1 had a as blow-out but Ralph Will killed it and ran 7 in. production casing "right now". This meant he also had to run a 5 1/2 in. liner and cement it at the desired completion depth. This procedure would have been Atlantic No. 3's safe alternative.

The risky path lay in trying to maintain circulation and "make a run for it", with the hope that the remainder of the D-3 section would not be so porous and circulation could be maintained to casing point.

As noted in Chapter 5, the contract stated that "lost circulation was Owner's (Atlantic/McMahon's) responsibility after 72 hours",3 Bill Warnick, G.P.'s mud man, recalls Cody Spencer re-assuring him: "Don't worry about it, we'll be on day work in the morning." Had Frank McMahon, as Owner, wanted to be absolutely sure of a satisfactory completion, he could have ordered Spencer to run the long string then and run a liner at total depth, in spite of the extra cost of the liner and the cement job.

Did Spencer warn McMahon of the danger? Did McMahon insist on Spencer trying to make a run for it so as to avoid the cost of the liner? Spencer was certainly enough of a gambler and he may have lulled Frank into a false sense of security.

The decision reached was to try to re-establish circulation and make hole. Partial circulation was restored with sawdust, oats, gel-flake and several cement plugs but no hole was made because full circulation could not be maintained.

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