OFFSHORE EUROPE Jeremy Beckman • London
Few commitment wells in latest UK licenses
Britain’s government has awarded 134 licenses spanning 252
blocks to 81 companies under the UK’s 28th Seaward Licensing
Round. More awards will follow pending environmental assessment
of plans for a further 94 blocks.
According to oil and gas advisory consultants Hannon Westwood,
the result makes this the ffth most successful round in terms of
the number of applicants and block awards. However, the commitment to drill a total of fve exploratory wells is the lowest since the
22nd Round in 2004 when the Brent crude price was much lower,
at around $40/bbbl. Four of the fve wells are in areas that could
involve high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) operations. The
offshore seismic acquisition commitment should lead to fve new
3D and three 2D surveys, all in frontier areas or regions near mature
basins where coverage is minimal.
The number of frontier licenses issued is down by two-thirds compared with the previous round, although areas opened up include
the barely explored west of Hebrides region off northwest Scotland,
where Statoil is among the new acreage holders. At the same time
the number of promote licenses has tripled – these provide a low-cost way for small companies to work up acreage and then attempt
to bring in a larger partner to fnance the program, ahead of a decision on whether to convert to a full license. But as the consultants
point out, may of these licenses have been relinquished without conversion due to the increased diffculty in attracting funds.
This year UK exploration and appraisal drilling could sink to a
new low, in contrast to Norway where well numbers have increased
at a record pace, inspired by a regular stream of discoveries. However, the UK Chancellor’s December budget statement was expected
to include fscal incentives to stimulate exploration.
BP, GDF Suez confrm rare UK discovery
One region that has attracted the interest of the major operators
is the HP/HT corridor of the UK central North Sea. Here BP and
GDF Suez E&P UK have confrmed a commercial discovery extending over two blocks in different licenses, referred to as Vorlich
on BP’s side and Marconi on the GDF Suez side. The well, drilled
by the jackup Transocean Galaxy on behalf of both license groups,
fowed up to 5,350 boe/d on test.
In this case, the reservoir depth appears to be relatively shallow
compared with some of the more extreme conditions associated with
deeper-lying gas/condensate fnds such as BG’s Jackdaw. Earlier in the
year, BG appeared to be gravitating toward a multi-platform/hub devel-
opment. Now, however, the company and its partners have decided to
delay sanctioning the project to allow for more time to scrutinize lower-
cost solutions, including a tieback of Jackdaw to nearby infrastructure.
Johan Sverdrup plan goes before parliament
Statoil has submitted the environmental impact assessment for
Johan Sverdrup in the central Nor wegian North Sea, Nor way’s largest new development project this century. Assuming approval from
the country’s parliament next spring, frst-phase production could
start in 2019, building to a peak in the 315,000-380,000 b/d range.
The longer-term target is 550,000-650,000 b/d, according to partner
Det Norske Oljeselskap, pushing full-feld development costs to potentially $25-32.4 billion.
Elsewhere in the North Sea, Statoil is moving closer to redevelopment of the Snorre feld. The company has commissioned Wood Group
Mustang to perform a pre-front-end engineering and design study for a
proposed second TLP on the feld. According to analysts ScanBoss, this
could be used to drill an additional 40 wells, accessing 300 MMbbl of reserves, with oil enhanced by injecting imported gas into the reservoir.
Next year Statoil expects to install and hook up to the Gullfaks C
facilities the world’s frst subsea wet gas compressor station. Following mechanical commissioning, OneSubsea was due to perform fnal
system integration tasks at Horsøy in Norway to verify that all components functioned as planned. The 1,070-metric ton ( 1,179-ton) station
was developed in cooperation with Framo (since integrated into OneSubsea), should increase production from the Gullfaks South reservoir
by 22 MMboe. Aside from saving space and weight on the platform,
compared with a conventional topsides compression module, the wet-gas equipment brings the advantage of not requiring treatment of the
wellstream prior to compression. This allows for smaller modules and
simpler construction on the seabed, Statoil claims.
Mixed fortunes for Lundin,
Statoil in Barents Sea
Lundin’s run of exploration successes in the Barents Sea continues, with the frst well on the Alta prospect discovering a potentially
large oil and gas accumulation. The semisubmersible Island Innovator
drilled the 7220/11-1 wildcat 20 km ( 12. 4 mi) northeast of Lundin’s
2013 discovery Gohta, which opened a new play in the Loppa High
region. The location is 160 km (99 mi) from the northern Nor wegian
mainland in license PL609, in a water depth of 388 m ( 1,273 ft).
The well, testing Permo-Carboniferous and Triassic targets, encountered oil in good-quality carbonate rocks. Lundin estimates the
potential recoverable resource in the range of 125-400 MMboe, and
now plans wells on the Borselv and Neiden prospects to the north
which could be equally large.
Statoil concluded its rolling 2013-2014 drilling campaign in the Barents Sea last month with a dry hole. Results over the two years were
below expectations with only moderate new fnds, including the Drivis
oil discovery that will be included in the Johan Castberg multi-feld development. But the three wells drilled in the Hoop area this summer
– the northernmost on the Norwegian continental shelf at more than
300 km (186 mi) from shore – did confrm a working petroleum system.
The company had better luck in the North Sea with a new oil discovery in the Heimdal formation 7 km ( 4. 3 mi) from its producing Grane
feld. The D-structure could hold 30-80 MMbbl recoverable, the company claimed. For Total, the semisub Leiv Eiriksson successfully appraised
the Garantiana discovery, 30 km ( 18. 6 mi) north of the Visund feld in
the northern Nor wegian North Sea. A subsequent side track of the well
into the Akkar prospect also encountered oil – partner Spike Exploration assesses combined resources at 50-105 MMboe. •
Location of the Vorlich/Marconi discovery.
(Map courtesy BP/GDF Suez E&P UK)