Industry regulator the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has awarded contracts for a second UK Government-funded £20million seismic campaign aimed at boosting North Sea exploration.
Norwegian firm PGS and WesternGeco, which is part of Schlumberger, will study an area of the northern North Sea known as the East Shetland Platform and also parts of south-west Britain.
The two companies are expected to collect up to 9,300 line miles of new seismic data from “under-explored frontier areas”.
Work will start this month, subject to the surveys gaining certain environmental approvals, and is to be supplemented by some reprocessing of past seismic findings.
OGA said the latest data gathering exercise was likely to be completed during the final quarter of the year, with the results being made available to the industry in the second quarter of 2017.
More than 24,000 line miles of new and reprocessed data was released to industry following a similar campaign last year.
The surveys are part of a package of government support for the troubled UK oil and gas sector. Target areas were selected following a consultation with industry.
OGA exploration and production director Gunther Newcombe said: “The seismic acquisition programme is a critical part of OGA’s plan to revitalise exploration.
“Last year’s programme, which covered the Rockall Trough and Mid-North Sea High areas, sparked significant interest in these frontier areas of the UKCS (UK continental shelf).”
OGA said the 2015 campaign led to more than 3,000 standard data package downloads which would give the industry “valuable insight” ahead of the looming 29th offshore licensing round.
Mr Newcombe said: “The 2016 programme is focusing on under-explored frontier areas where no substantial seismic has been acquired in decades.
“It is expected these areas will be made available for licensing in the 31st frontier licensing round, which will be held in 2018.”
He added: “The UKCS is in a unique position having recovered more than 43billion boe (barrels of oil equivalent) to-date, yet up to 20billion still remains.
“The challenge is now for industry to increase exploration drilling in the UKCS and work with OGA to meet our shared target of 50 exploration and appraisal wells per year by 2021.”
PGS vessel Nordic Explorer is scheduled to carry out seismic surveys across the East Shetland Platform, which includes the East Orkney East Fair Isle and Dutch Bank basins.
WesternGeco’s WG Magellan is scheduled to carry out surveys of areas including the Celtic Sea, western English Channel, Bristol Channel, St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea.
Thorbjorn Rekdal, regional president, marine contract Europe, PGS, said: “We are pleased the OGA awarded one of the contracts to PGS which shows confidence in our ability to deliver high quality data in an efficient and timely manner.”
Patrick Legh-Smith, vice-president, marine, WesternGeco, said: “We are delighted to be a part of the UK Government’s initiative to drive growth in the country’s oil and gas sector.
“This award leverages our experience in frontier exploration acquisition and builds on the work done by WesternGeco during the first UK seismic campaign in 2015.”