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Worldwide Field Development News Aug 17 – Aug 23, 2012

This week the SubseaIQ team added 1 new projects and updated 14 projects. You can see all the updates made over any time period via the Project Update History search. The latest offshore field develoment news and activities are listed below for your convenience.

Asia – Caspian

Seismic Survey Completed on RWE Dea’s Block 23 Offshore Turkmenistan

Aug 20, 2012 – RWE Dea has completed its 3D seismic survey offshore Turkmenistan in under four months. Approximately 154 square miles (400 square kilometers) was acquired in RWE Dea’s Block 23, which was awarded as part of a production sharing contract (PSC) in 2009.
According to RWE Dea, it will take several months for geologists and geophysicists to interpret the processed data collected from the Miocene and Pilocene rock strata at depths of 9,842 to 21,325 feet (3,000 to 6,500 meters). This 3D seismic survey transitioned from onshore to shallow water and was the first of its kind conducted on the coast of Turkmenistan. An additional 2D program was included in the seismic measurements in order to further assess the exploration potential of the area.

Asia – SouthEast

Majority Interest in Philippines Block SC56 Acquired by Total

Aug 23, 2012 – Total E&P Philippines B.V. announced it has agreed to a farm-out with Mitra Energy to take 75% interest in offshore Block SC56. The block is located in the Sulu Sea, covers a total area of 1,660 square miles (4,300 square kilometers) and has water depths ranging from 656 to 984 feet (200 to 3,000 meters). Mitra retains 25% interest in SC56.
A new exploration phase begins September 2012 with Mitra operating the re-processing of existing data and the acquisition of an additional 193 square miles (500 square kilometers) of 3D seismic. Operatorship will transfer to Total for drilling operations. Approval of this agreement by the authorities of the Republic of Philippines is pending.

Premier Upgrades Anoa Facility

Aug 23, 2012 – Premier Oil reported that the Anoa facility has been undergoing a series of upgrades via engineering projects collectively known as Phase 4. The first phase commenced began in July with pre-fabricated compression models being installed on the platform. The second phase of construction will continue during Summer 2013. The overall project will be completed during the second half of 2013 and will result in the development of around 200 billion cubic feet of undeveloped proven reserves on Natuna Sea Block A and increase the Anoa facility’s capacity to 200 BBtud.

Bualuang Bravo Platform to be Installed mid-October

Aug 23, 2012 – Construction on the Bualuang Bravo Platform is scheduled to be finished by the end of August and approvals have been received for the environmental impact assessment. The K1 HLV will begin load-out and installation of the platform by mid-October and by the end of October the platform will be ready for development drilling activities.

Project Details: Bualuang

Premier Reaches TD on Chim Sao NW Appraisal Well

Aug 17, 2012 – Premier Oil reported that the Chim Sao North West appraisal well, CS-3X, has reached a total depth of 13,894 feet (4,235 meters). The well has been plugged and abandoned after encountering oil shows in the Middle Dua sands. The appraisal well was drilled to determine whether the Chim Sao North West discovery extended into a separate fault segment to the north. The well targeted the Upper and Middle Dua sands. While 443 feet (135 meters) of sandstone reservoir were penetrated in the Upper Dua interval there was no indication of hydrocarbons. In the Middle Dua interval 541 feet (165 meters) of sands were drilled, but only oil shows were encountered. The CS-N17XP well, which was completed immediately prior to the appraisal well, was drilled to produce from the North West extension to the Chim Sao Field. That well was brought on-stream earlier this month with initial extended production test rates averaging 4,000 barrels of oil per day from four Upper Dua reservoirs.

Project Details: Chim Sao

Europe – North Sea

DECC Approves Fionn Field Development Plan

Aug 23, 2012 – UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has approved the Field Development Plan for the Fionn Field. Previously drilled and suspended, 211/22a-6, will be completed with dual electrical submersible pumps. First oil is anticipated in mid-2013 at an initial rate of 4,500 bopd. The well, which was originally drilled in 2007, tested oil from the Ness and Etive formations at a combined flow rate of approximately 5,500 bopd. Production from Fionn will be combined with production from Causeway and transported for processing to the Cormorant North platform.

Project Details: Causeway

Statoil Aims to Improve Recovery at Gullfaks South

Aug 23, 2012 – Statoil, along with its partner Petoro, has announced plans for further development of the Gullfaks South field located on the Norwegian continental shelf. Production in the field has fallen sharply in recent years. With a planned investment of $1.4 billion, Statoil will apply its “fast-track” concept which will make use of existing infrastructure as well as two new subsea structures and six additional development wells. The partners believe that their investment will allow recovery in the field to be increased by 65 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Project Details: Greater Gullfaks Area

Total to Spin Bit at Spinnaker

Aug 23, 2012 – Upon completion of operations at Tomintoul, Total will move the West Phoenix (UDW semisub) to its Spinnaker prospect. Spinnaker is located West of Shetlands on Block 206/04a.

Project Details: Spinnaker

Total to Spin Bit at Spinnaker

Aug 21, 2012 – Upon completion of operations at Tomintoul, Total will move the West Phoenix (UDW semisub) to its Spinnaker prospect. Spinnaker is located West of Shetlands on Block 206/04a.

Project Details: Spinnaker

Statoil Encounters Oil in Geitungen Prospect

Aug 17, 2012 – Statoil has made an oil discovery at the Geitungen prospect, reported Det norske, a partner in Production License 265. Oil was encountered and a core sample was recovered. Drilling operations are ongoing and the final results from the well are not yet available, Det norske said in a statement. The Ocean Vanguard (mid-water semisub) is drilling exploratory well 16/2-12 to a total depth of 6,759 feet (2,060 meters) to prove the presence of oil-bearing Jurassic sandstones similar to the Johan Sverdrup discovery. Statoil operates the field with a 40 percent stake; while Lundin holds 10 percent; Petoro holds 30 percent; and Det norske holds the remaining 20 percent.

Project Details: Geitungen

Duart Field Remains Shut-In

Aug 17, 2012 – Talisman Energy stated that the Duart field, which was shut-in on July 26 due to a process shutdown on the host Tartan platform, remains shut-in to date. During the shut-in period, additional technical issues have come to light which are preventing the restart of gas processing on the Tartan platform. The gas process is required to support Duart production. The operator will continue to close the field until these problems are resolved. Talisman indicates that the earliest restart date is December 2012.

Project Details: The Greater Tartan Area

S. America – Other & Carib.

Results Are In for Darwin Fluid Sample Analysis

Aug 23, 2012 – Borders & Southern received positive results from the fluid analysis performed on samples from Well 61/17-1 located offshore the Falkland Islands. The initial condensate yield from the Darwin gas samples, as measured in a laboratory separator test, varies from 123 to 140 stb/MMscf. The API gravity of the condensate is 46 to 49 degrees. Based on the condensate yield and ongoing reservoir modeling, the Company estimates the recoverable volume of condensate to be 130 to 250 million barrels with a mid-case of 190 million barrels. The company will now move forward with the acquisition of additional 3D seismic data in 2013 and explore the best way to fund an exploration and appraisal campaign.

Project Details: Darwin East

Africa – West

Ophir Energy Successfully Appraises Fortuna Discovery

Aug 23, 2012 – Ophir Energy has successfully drilled the Fortuna East-1 appraisal well in Block R offshore Equatorial Guinea. Fortuna East-1 is located approximately 4 miles (7 kilometers) east southeast of Fortuna-1. The well encountered natural gas in the eastern lobe of the Fortuna Complex as well as in a deeper exploration target Viscata. The recoverable mean resource from the eastern lobe is now estimated at 426 Bcf. A 180-foot (55-meter) gas bearing column containing a total of 131 feet (40 meters) of net pay in the primary target Late Miocene sands of the eastern lobe of the Fortuna Complex was encountered. Pressure measurements indicate communication between Fortuna-1 and Fortuna East-1.


Browse LNG Project Loses Chevron in Swap with Shell

Aug 20, 2012 – Interests in two major natural gas projects in Australia have changed hands between Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Corporation. Shell has agreed to swap its interest 33.3-percent interest in two gas fields associated with its Wheatstone project located in Western Australia and pay $450 million in cash to Chevron. In return, Shell will receive a combined interest of 36.7-percent interest in the Browse LNG project.
Shell will now hold a 35-percent ownership in West Browse and 25-percent in East Browse. International Director for Shell Upstream, Andy Brown believes this deal with simplify the ownership of the Browse gas fields.

Project Details: Browse LNG

ConocoPhillips, Karoon Gas Resume Drilling Boreas-1 After Solving Rig Woes

Aug 17, 2012 – Karoon Gas has completed repair work on a blowout preventer after more than two months, and the contracted semisub rig, Transocean Legend (mid-water semisub), can resume drilling in the Greater Poseidon area in the Browse Basin offshore Western Australia. The operator is planning to drill at the Boreas-1 well, the first of a minimum five exploration wells the consortium will drill in the Greater Poseidon area, will begin on Aug. 17. All of the five exploration wells will be drilled by the Transocean Legend, and lie in the WA-314-P, WA-315-P and WA-398-P Browse Basin permits containing the previously announced Poseidon and Kronos gas discoveries. Karoon Gas holds a 40 percent stake in WA-315-P and WA-398-P, and a 90 percent stake in WA-314-P. ConocoPhillips holds the remaining stakes in the three permits.

Project Details: Boreas

Recap: Worldwide Field Development News (May 11 – May 17, 2012)


This week the SubseaIQ team added 4 new projects and updated 19 projects. You can see all the updates made over any time period via the Project Update History search. The latest offshore field develoment news and activities are listed below for your convenience.

Europe – North Sea
RWE Begins Development Drilling on Breagh
May 17, 2012 – RWE Dea has begun development drilling at the Breagh gas field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The ENSCO 70 (250′ ILC) has been deployed to start the Breagh development drilling program. Previously drilled wells 42/13-3 and 42/13-5Z, which were suspended for future use as early development wells, will be re-entered and sidetracked to re-drill the reservoir interval. Including the recompletion of these two wells, up to eight development wells are expected to be drilled, completed and put on production over the next two years. First gas from Breagh is expected in the second half of 2012.
Project Details: Breagh
Marathon Takes Reins at Vilje Field
May 16, 2012 – Statoil has transferred operatorship of the Vilje field in the North Sea to Marathon Oil. The agreement does not involve any change of stakes in Production License 036D.
Project Details: Alvheim
Total Begins Elgin Well-Intervention Operation
May 15, 2012 – Total has started a well-intervention operation to stop the leak from the G4 well at its Elgin complex in the North Sea. The well intervention operation consists of pumping heavy mud into the well from the main support vessel, the West Phoenix (UDW semisub) drilling rig via a temporary pipeline connected to the G4 wellhead. Depending on the precise conditions inside the well, the operation and subsequent observation period will last a few days before it is possible to confirm whether the operation has been a success, Total said.
Project Details: Elgin/Franklin
BP Gets Govt Nod to Drill Snadd Outer Prospect
May 15, 2012 – BP has received consent to use the Polar Pioneer (mid-water semisub) drilling facility to drill exploration well 6507/3-9 in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Well 6507/3-9 is part of Production License 212 E and the well lies in a water depth of 1,194 feet (364 meters). The objective of the well is to investigate a prospect named Snadd Outer. Drilling will commence soon.
Project Details: Skarv/Idun
Statoil to Commence Drilling Campaign in Barents Sea
May 14, 2012 – Statoil and partners have established a plan to advance exploration drilling in the Skrugard area. The exploration campaign will comprise four new prospects and is scheduled to commence in late 2012. The objective of the drilling campaign is to follow up on the Skrugard and Havis discoveries and to test further upside potential of the area. The four prospects will be drilled back-to-back with the West Hercules (UDW semisub) drilling rig, which will be winterized to meet the weather conditions in the Barents Sea. The drilling campaign will start in PL532 with the Nunatak prospect due to be spud in December this year. Then the rig will proceed to the Skavl prospect located in the same license, and thereafter to the Iskrystall prospect in the neighboring licence PL608. The fourth prospect to be drilled will be announced at a later stage.
Premier Spuds Carnaby Prospect
May 14, 2012 – Premier commenced drilling at the Carnaby exploration well 28/9-5 in the North Sea. The well is being drilled by the Sedco 711 (mid-water semisub) and is being managed by Applied Drilling Technology International. Drilling operations are expected to take about 25 days.
Project Details: Carnaby
Providence Confirms Significant Reservoir Potential at Barryroe
May 11, 2012 – Providence Resources has reported that the 48/24-10z appraisal well, the second well to be tested in the basal sands and the sixth well to be drilled at the Barryroe oil discovery, has successfully logged hydrocarbons. In addition to carrying out comprehensive flow testing, significant data acquisition was also carried out utilizing modern wireline equipment. The newly acquired wire-line log data has now been used to evaluate the potential to directly map the hydrocarbon bearing basal reservoir sands, which were successfully tested in the most recent Barryroe 48/24-10z well. This modeling has confirmed that the basal reservoir sandstone package has a defined seismic response which can be detected clearly within the inverted 3D seismic volume. A preliminary review of the inverted 3D seismic volume indicates that the reservoir sequence is widely developed in the Barryroe area. Detailed interpretation of the inverted seismic data has now commenced and will be used to better define the static oil in place estimates for the Barryroe accumulation.
Project Details: Barryroe
Africa – Other
Eni Scores Big in Coral-1 Discovery
May 16, 2012 – Eni has made a “giant” natural gas discovery in Area 4, offshore Mozambique, at the Coral-1 well. The Coral discovery is estimated to contain between 7 and 10 Tcf of gas in place, exclusively located in Area 4. With these new results at Coral-1, Eni estimates that the resources range between 15 and 20 Tcf of gas in place. The new discovery further increases the total potential of the Mamba complex, which holds between 47 and 52 Tcf of gas in place, according to recent estimates. The discovery well encountered a total of 246 feet (75 meters) of gas pay in single high-quality Eocene sand. This discovery is particularly significant since it confirms a new exploration play, which is independent of those drilled so far in previous Mamba wells. Eni will run a production test on the Coral-1 discovery.
Project Details: Coral (ENI)
BG Makes Mzia Discovery
May 16, 2012 – BG Group has made a gas discovery in the Mzia-1 exploration well in Block 1 offshore southern Tanzania. Mzia-1 is the company’s first discovery within the deeper Cretaceous section and opens an extensive new play fairway within Blocks 1, 3 and 4, to complement the now proven Tertiary fairway. Preliminary evaluation of the results indicates 180 feet (55 meters) of natural gas pay in good quality sands. An extensive logging program has been completed, including the acquisition of pressure data and gas samples. The well has de-risked a number of adjacent Cretaceous prospects, which could form part of a future Mzia hub, stated the operator. These prospects are expected to be tested in a future appraisal program to be defined following incorporation of data from this new well and 3D seismic. The new resources proven by Mzia and the potential of adjacent prospects are currently under evaluation.
Project Details: Mzia
BG Group to Spud Papa Prospect in June
May 16, 2012 – BG Group plans to spud the Papa-1 prospect in Block 3 offshore Tanzania in June 2012. The operator will use the Deepsea Metro-1 (DW drillship) to perform drilling operations in a water depth of 9,843 feet (3,000 meters).
Project Details: Papa
S. America – Brazil
OGX Declares Waimea Complex Commercial
May 15, 2012 – OGX has presented to the National Petroleum, Natural Gas and ANP a Declaration of Commerciality for a portion of the Waimea Complex, of which the proposed new designation is Tubarao Azul field in Block BM-C-41. This declaration of commerciality occurred after assessing results gathered during the Extended Well Test (EWT). The EWT, conducted through the OGX-26HP well, has confirmed excellent perm porosity reservoir characteristics. The development plan estimates a total recoverable volume of 110 million barrels of oil from Tubarao Azul field over the concession period’s production phase.
Apache Agrees to Sell LNG to Tohuku Electric Power Company
May 17, 2012 – Apache and partners have agreed to sell LNG from the Chevron-operated Wheatstone project in Western Australia to Tohuku Electric Power Company (THE). The Wheatstone partners and THE signed a Heads of Agreement to supply up to 1 million metric tons per annum (MTPA) of LNG for up to 20 years. Through its 13-percent share in Wheatstone, Apache Julimar Pty Ltd, an Apache subsidiary, will supply up to 0.13 MTPA, or approximately 19 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, to THE. Wheatstone is under development; the foundation phase of the project will include two LNG trains with a combined capacity of 8.9 MTPA and a domestic gas plant.
Project Details: Wheatstone
Origin Disappointed by Thistle
May 15, 2012 – Origin Energy will plug and abandon its Thistle-1 exploration well after reaching a total depth of 7,431 feet (2,265 meters). No shows were encountered in the objective Waarre sandstones. The well was drilled by the Stena Clyde (mid-water semisub).
Project Details: Thistle
FMC to Supply Offshore Loading Arm Systems for Prelude Development
May 14, 2012 – FMC Technology will supply offshore loading arm systems as part of the Shell Prelude FLNG project. FMC’s scope of supply includes seven offshore footless marine loading arms, four for liquefied natural gas and three for liquefied petroleum gas. FMC’s Loading Systems business in Sens, France will design and manufacture the equipment. The Prelude facility will be built by TSC at the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje, Korea. It will measure 1,600 feet (488 meters) from bow to stern and weigh around 600,000 tonnes when fully loaded. It will be moored over 120 miles (200 kilometers) from land and will produce gas from offshore subsea fields. The facility will treat and liquefy the gas onboard via a cooling process before storing and export it via conventional LNG carriers.
Project Details: Prelude
Black Sea
Melrose to Acquire Seismic Data offshore Romania in June
May 17, 2012 – Melrose plans to commence a work program over its Muridava concession offshore Romania in June 2012. The company will acquire 474,442 acres (1,920 square kilometers) of 3D seismic, sufficient to cover both blocks. A contractor has been selected to conduct the seismic program and detailed contract negotiations are ongoing.
Melrose Obtains Reservoir Data Program over Galata
May 17, 2012 – Melrose Resources has recently conducted a reservoir data acquisition program on the shut-in Galata field to confirm the remaining reserves and gather information required to update the gas storage feasibility study. The results of the program were positive and confirmed remaining reserves of at least 6 Bcf and more limited aquifer movement than previously predicted. Furthermore, the field data indicates that the field could be placed back on production as early as next year, which will be discussed with the Bulgarian authorities over the forthcoming months. The interpretation of the recent 3D seismic survey over the Galata Block is being finalized and a number of structures have been identified within three high graded areas in the central area of the concession. The interpretation is expected to complete in June when the Company will be in a position to provide details of the survey findings and confirm the future drilling plans. An independent prospective resource report is also being prepared for the block by the Company’s reserves auditors.
Project Details: Galata Area
N. America – Canadian Atlantic
Statoil Preps for Newfoundland Drilling Campaign
May 14, 2012 – Statoil has reached an agreement to use Seadrill’s West Aquarius (UDW semisub) to conduct exploratory drilling offshore Newfoundland. Starting late 2012, the operator will begin a three-well drilling program, including two exploration wells in the Flemish Pass Basin, as well as an exploration well in the Jeanne d???Arc Basin.
S. America – Other & Carib.
Borders & Southern Spuds Stebbing Prospect
May 14, 2012 – Borders & Southern has spud exploration well 61/25-1 at the Stebbing prospect in the Falkland Islands. The Stebbing prospect is a thrust cored anticline structure with an area of 33 square miles (85 square kilometers). Objectives comprise Tertiary and Upper Cretaceous sandstone reservoirs. The well duration is estimated to be 49 days.
Project Details: Stebbing
Africa – West
Afren Hits Additional Pay in Ebok
May 17, 2012 – Afren announced that the Ebok North Fault Block exploration well encountered 370 feet (113 meters) true vertical thickness of net oil pay in excellent quality reservoir sands. The Ebok NFB exploration well was spudded on April 12, 2012 by Afren and Oriental Energy Resources, and reached a total vertical depth of 4,320 feet (1,317 meters), with the Transocean Adriatic lX (350′ ILC) drilling rig. The well was targeting a separate fault block structure located to the north of the main Ebok field, and encountered good quality oil in the same Tertiary reservoir sands equivalent to those that have been developed and are in production at the main Ebok field development. The well will be suspended while the partners determine the optimal development solution.
Project Details: Greater Ebok-Okwok Complex
Tap Oil Updates Ops in Accra Contract Area
May 16, 2012 – The Ministry of Energy, Ghana has granted Tap Oil Limited a 12-month extension of the Initial Exploration Period under the Petroleum Agreement in respect of the offshore Accra Contract area. The IEP now ends on Sept. 23, 2013, by which the commitment well must be drilled. New 3D seismic was acquired over the deepwater part of the Contract Area in early 2011. Interpretation of the data at hand indicates multiple large prospects within both the post-rift Upper Cretaceous fan sands (the same play type as Jubilee) and pre-rift Lower Cretaceous rotated fault blocks (the same play type as the Espoir and Baobab oil fields). To date several prospects and leads have been mapped and have unrisked prospective resources of greater than 3 billion barrels. It is anticipated that the commitment well will likely target a large, deepwater, Jubilee look-a-like trap with prospective resources in the range of half a billion barrels. Well planning is in progress with various rig options currently being investigated.
Rialto Energy Granted Exclusive Exploitation Area over Gazelle
May 15, 2012 – Rialto has received formal confirmation from the government of Cote d’Ivoire that the company has been granted an Exclusive Exploitation Area over the Gazelle field on Block CI-202. The EEA granted Rialto with the right to produce hydrocarbons from Gazelle over a tenure period of 25 years. The Gazelle field is the current focus of an initial three-well drilling campaign by Rialto, which commenced with the drilling of the Gazelle-P3 development well in March 2012 and which will be followed by further development and exploration drilling in and around Gazelle during the coming months. The current drilling program is aimed at converting the 58 MMboe of gross mean contingent resources at Gazelle to reserves as well as testing the high impact Chouette oil prospect, which contains a gross mean prospective resource of 84 MMbbls.
Project Details: Gazelle
Chariot Drills Duster in Tapir South
May 14, 2012 – Chariot O&G will plug and abandon its Tapir South pre-salt exploration well (1811/5-1) in the Namibe Basin, offshore Namibia. The well reached a total depth of 16,005 feet (4,789 meters) without encountering commercial hydrocarbons. The well encountered 568 feet (173 meters) of net reservoir sand of Cretaceous age, including two zones in excess of 98 feet (30 meters) with average porosities of 24 percent. Carbonate intervals were also penetrated with porosities of up to 18 percent over a net interval of 92 feet (28 meters). Chariot said that detailed analyses will be conducted on the data collected during the drilling of Tapir South and the information will be used to calibrate the firm’s existing data set. A resource update of the remaining prospectivity in the block will be provided once this evaluation is complete.
Project Details: Tapir South
N. America – US GOM
ClampOn to Provide Detectors for Tubular Bells Project
May 14, 2012 – ClampOn will supply multiple subsea acoustic sand vibration detectors and PIG detectors for the Tubular Bells project. The development is slated for production in 4Q 2014.
Project Details: Tubular Bells
Asia – SouthEast
PTSC M&C to Construct Wellhead Platforms for White Lion Project
May 11, 2012 – PTSC M&C has won a major detailed engineering, procurement, construction, installation, hook-up and commissioning contract. The scope of work includes two wellhead platforms, Thang Long and Dong Do, with topsides weighing about 1,100 tonnes each, 9-mile (15-kilometer) infield pipeline and 87-ton PLEMs and PLET. The project completion is scheduled for August 2013. The White Lion field is slated to come online in October 2013.
Su Tu Trang Jacket, Topside Leaves Yard for Field Installation
May 11, 2012 – Thang Long JOC reported that the Su Tu Trang jacket and topside for the White Sealion field has sailed away from the PTSC M&C fabrication yard in Vung Tau City. Su Tu Trang is a turn-key project which was awarded to PTSC M&C in March 2010 by Cuu Long JOC for engineering, procurement, construction, installation, hook-up and commissioning of a 1,400-ton topside, 1,200-ton jacket, 1,000-ton jacket pile, 19.5 kilometer-long infield pipeline and the additional modification for the existing Su Tu Vang Central Processing Platform. The detailed design work was completed in November 2011 by Nippon Steel Engineering Company Limited (NSEC) under the supervision of PTSC M&C. Overall project management; procurement and fabrication was carried out and managed by PTSC M&C as part of its turn-key, EPCI contractor???s responsibilities. PTSC M&C is now targeting the finish date of offshore installation campaign to be in early July 2012.

Oil and Gas Majors See Development Potential in Barents Sea


The oil and gas majors are looking to the promise of the Barents Sea, attracted by Norway’s political stability against a backdrop of unrest in the Middle East and falling North Sea output.

Of 24 offshore oil and gas production licenses Norway awarded on April 15, half were in the Barents Sea in the Arctic, an unprecedented number.

There is unprecedented interest in our northernmost seas,” Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said of the licensing round, adding “the present level of activity in the Barents Sea is high and increasing.”

Since peaking in 2001 at round three million barrels per day, Norway’s oil ouput has declined steadily to around two mbpd currently.

With reserves in the North Sea shrinking and major discoveries becoming rarer, Norway has decided to open up its northernmost waters in response to industry pressure and the need to ensure a steady source of income for its generous welfare state.

Exploration and development in the Arctic is technologically complex and expensive, with companies having to come with extremely low temperatures, sea ice, long distances from existing infrastructure and total darkness in winter,

But soaring oil prices and technological advances have made the region attractive despite the challenges, with the Arctic as a whole perhaps containing 13 percent of the oil and 30 percent of the gas on the planet not yet discovered, according to the US Geological survey.

Among the firms awarded licenses earlier this month were Norwegian state-owned giant Statoil, France’s GDF Suez, US giant ExxonMobil, Eni of Italy, German RWE Dea and Britain’s BG.

Statoil said it was pleased to have won licences near the Skrugard deposit, which it had called “one of the most important finds on the Norwegian continental shelf in the last decade.

The field could contain up to 250 million barrels of oil and its recent discovery rekindled interest in the Barents Sea.

Skrugard could mean that we are opening up a new oil province,” Statoil chief executive Helge Lund said of the find.

Before Skrugard, some 80 exploration wells had resulted in only two major finds in Norwegian waters of the Barents Sea — Snoehvit, a gas find developed by Statoil, and Goliat, run by Eni which should come on-line in 2013.

In Russian waters lies the enormous Shtokman gas field, for which Russian giant Gazprom has taken on Statoil and Total for its development.

If the oil majors are newly enthusiastic over the Barents Sea, environmentalists worry about potential damage to its fragile and fish-filled waters .

The oil industry can now frolic in vulnerable waters that should have never been opened up to prospecting,” Lars Haltbrekken of Friends of the Earth Norway said in reaction to the new licensing round.

By Pierre-Henry Deshayes (zawya)

Original Article

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