As Q1 2010 drew to a close, eight exploration and appraisal wells were active on the UKCS. So far, 12 wells have spudded this year, including one restart, seven exploration wells and four appraisals.
Drilling these wells are eight mobile units comprising two semi-submersibles and six jack-ups.
Despite a very slow start to the year, this represents a 64% increase over the same point in 2009, excluding sidetracks.
Compared with previous years, a marked absence of sidetrack wells is noted.
Well completions to date have been few, with just two reported during the month, bringing the total for the year to six.
The overall increase in activity has largely been in the Southern North Sea, where jack-up rates are evidently far more operator-friendly than they have been for many months, leading to a minor boom in the basin despite continuing uncertainty over the gas price.
Two new mobile units, both jack-ups, have been brought into the UK sector for E&A activity in the Southern North Sea. The GSF Labrador is working for Dana and the Noble George Welliver for ATP. Of the 16 development drilling operations ongoing, half that number comprises platform wells, with the remainder utilising eight mobile units – six semi-submersibles and a pair of jack-ups.
In the Northern North Sea, just one well is active. Total spudded the Jurassic Laphroaig exploration well 3/15-13 on March 15 with the Sedco 714, though it required re-spudding after three days.
Two wells remain active in the Central North Sea: Nexen-operated Bugle North appraisal 15/23d-15 with the semi-submersible, GSF Arctic IV, and Ithaca’s Stella discovery appraisal well, 30/6a-8, where the Galaxy 2 heavy-duty jack-up is operating at total depth and preparing to test the Palaeocene Andrew Sand reservoir.
In the Southern North Sea, GDF Suez continues operations with the jack-up, Ensco 100, on Cygnus appraisal well 44/11a-4, targeting the undrilled western side of this complicated faulted structure for the first time.
Centrica abandoned 53/3d-10 on the Rotliegendes Alcyone prospect without comment after 25 days, the jack-up rig, Noble Julie Robertson, moving to spud the Olympus exploration well 48/12e-11 on a Rotliegendes prospect on March 10.
The jack-up, GSF Labrador, commenced drilling Dana’s Rotliegendes Platypus prospect exploration well 48/1a-5 on March 3, and ATP spudded the Carboniferous Kilmar Northwest appraisal well 43/22a-3 on March 10 with the jack-up, Noble George Welliver.
In the East Irish Sea, EOG abandoned exploration well 110/12-8 after 14 days, the second of its back-to back exploration wells on Triassic prospects.
The jack-up, Ensco 92, moved to drill deviated well 110/13b-21 on BHP’s Bel Air/East Hamilton prospects. The well may mark the end of the long stay of the jack-up in the basin, with next activity likely to be Serica’s Conan well on block 113/27c utilising the jack-up, Ensco 80.
The West of Shetland sector has yet to see its first E&A spud of 2010.
Hannon Westwood’s planned well pool currently stands at 243 wells, of which 174 are exploratory or appraisal by designation, approximately half of which require third-party funding.
Irrespective of whether farmout deals are done, it is safe to say that activity for the second quarter should be stronger than the first and we expect to see an increase in appraisal drilling.
Simon Robertshaw’s column is courtesy of drilling analysts Hannon Westwood