Shares in UK oil minnows Desire Petroleum, Rockhopper Exploration and Falklands Oil and Gas were on the rise yesterday on speculation Desire could announce an oil discovery in the south Atlantic as early as the end of this week.
Desire is the first of the three to drill a well off the Falkland Islands, where the Ocean Guardian began the Liz exploration well on February 22 after being mobilised from Invergordon in November.
The semisubmersible rig has been contracted from Aberdeen-based Diamond Drilling Offshore UK. The oil company said at the time that drilling was expected to take about 30 days and it was sticking to this timeframe yesterday.
A spokesman said he could not comment on whether oil might be found ahead of the schedule for completion of the well.
Diamond Offshore said it was not for it to comment on drilling success or otherwise, which was a matter for the operator.
A drilling campaign using the Ocean Guardian – which has a significant number of crew from the north-east on board – will include four wells for Desire and two for Rockhopper.
It is the first campaign since the late 1990s, when falling oil prices ended explorers’ interest in the area until now.
The rig, for which AGR Petroleum Services is running a well-management contract out of its Aberdeen office, will move on from Liz, mooted to contain up to 660million barrels of oil equivalent, to drill Rockhopper’s Sea Lion and Ernest prospects.
The timing of other wells in the campaign will depend on results from the first wells.
The British Geological survey has estimated that the Falklands area could hold more than 60billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Drilling off the Falklands has stoked tensions between the UK and Argentina, which continues to claim sovereignty over the islands and has clamped down on regional shipping movements.
The UK Government has said it will take all steps necessary to protect the islands and their legitimate right to develop an oil and gas industry.
Desire shares gained 10.5% yesterday to 103p, Rockhopper’s were up about 10% to 55.25p and Falkland Oil and Gas added 3% at 138p.