US-based oil and gas company Trio Petroleum has executed its option to acquire a 20% interest in the Asphalt Ridge development project in Uinta County in northeastern Utah, US.

Currently, the Asphalt Ridge project is planned to be developed in two phases, where Phase 1 includes the development of 240 acres with 119 wells in the Northwest Asphalt Ridge Area.

The Phase 2 development envisages drilling thousands of new wells in around 30,000 acres of area, extending about 20 miles (32km) along the trend to the southeast.

Trio has signed an option agreement to acquire up to 20% working interest in Phase 1 with the payment of $2m, along with an option to acquire another 20% interest in Phase 2 development.

The oil and gas company plans to begin development at the project in Q1 2024, through its third-party operator, Heavy Sweet Oil, through contracts with Valkor Group.

The Phase 1 project is planned to be developed using advanced cyclic-steam production techniques, including initial CO2 injection.

Subsequently, the same development technique will be expanded across the 240 acres by drilling seventeen 7-spot hexagonal well patterns on 2 ½ acre spacing.

Trio CEO Michael Peterson said: “We are extremely excited to be participants in the effort to develop the giant, world-famous and world-class Asphalt Ridge heavy-oil and tar accumulation into a highly profitable oilfield.

“It is excellent to be able to diversify our exciting portfolio of California opportunities with such a high-potential asset in Utah, especially one that will not require a lot of additional capital expenditures according to the operator’s development plan.

“We now have two major assets in our portfolio, the South Salinas Project in California and the Asphalt Ridge Project in Utah. We are diligently seeking to execute our business plan to build cash flow, ensure the success of the company and increase shareholder value.”

Asphalt Ridge is a prominent, northwest-southeast trending topographic feature that crops out along the northeast flank of the Uinta Basin, with Tertiary and Cretaceous age sandstones.

The oil-saturated sandstones extend into the shallow subsurface of the Uinta Basin to the southwest, which is the site of the Asphalt Ridge Development project.

The project leasehold covers more than 30,000 acres and trends northwest to southeast, along the trend of Asphalt Ridge, over about 20 miles (32km).

It has been underdeveloped for decades, predominantly due to lease ownership issues and the definition of heavy oil falling under mining regulations in Utah.

Trio said that the Asphalt Ridge project will be one of the largest heavy oil deposits in North America outside of Canada, as estimated by an independent reserve engineering firm.

Based on its low wax and negligible sulphur content, Asphalt is expected to be a potential giant oilfield, which produces the oil very desirable for many industries, including shipping.

The third-party operator will begin the Phase 1 development this month, with upgrades to existing roads and well pads, along with drilling of the first of three initial wells this month.