INTO the final quarter of 2008 and a total of 59 exploration and appraisal wells have started on the UKCS so far, an increase of 14 spuds over the same point in 2007 and a level of activity not reached until the start of December that year. Additionally, 36 sidetracks have so far been initiated this year.
Thirteen mobile rigs are currently active on three exploration wells and nine appraisal wells, spread over the Central North Sea (six wells), Southern Gas Basin (five wells) and the Northern North Sea, where two wells are drilling.
About 170 “planned” wells are retained in the Hannon Westwood database, with indications that at least 28 of these, scheduled for 2008 drilling, have rig contracts in place. Undoubtedly, these schedules will slip, and perhaps half this number is a more realistic aim for the remainder of the year. This well “surplus” will roll over and add pressure in 2009.
There has been no shortage of success over the last couple of months with, in the CNS, Nexen’s 20/2a-8 (Blackbird) discovery flowing 3,800bpd of oil per day from the Jurassic, and Antrim’s 21/28a-10 Fyne appraisal flowing 4,000bpd from the Eocene.
In the Gas Basin, RWE’s 49/2a-6, 6Z Topaz appraisal achieved commercial rates on testing, while ConocoPhillips’ 49/22-N1Z Europa exploration sidetrack was successful and was immediately followed up with a development leg, plus Faroe Petroleum reported encouraging results for its East Breagh probe. In the West Shetland Basin, Chrysaor successfully appraised Solan with well 205/26a-7Z without the need to flow-test the Jurassic reservoir. On the downside, Bridge 15/11b-6 (North Piper) was abandoned dry in the CNS, and likewise, in the NNS, both Genesis’ 9/5b-5A on the Snake & Eagle prospect and Petrofac’s 211/18c-27 (Prospero) failed to find hydrocarbons.
Outcomes are currently unclear on Silverstone’s 49/17-15 Vantage near-field exploration well in the Gas Basin and, in the CNS, Talisman’s 13/23b-6 (Tain) and Oilexco’s 22/2b-15Z (Shelley North appraisal). Oilexco is concurrently developing Shelley field to the south and, towards the end of September, also initiated a sidetrack of its Huntington appraisal well 22/14b-9.
September also saw the sidetracking of Wintershall’s Dimple “appraisal” 44/24b-7 in the SNS, while new spuds are represented by EnCore’s Esmond (re-) appraisal 43/13a-5 in the same sector; Nautical’s 9/2b-3 Palaeocene Kraken appraisal in the NNS, and in the Central sector, Talisman’s Jurassic MacDonald exploration well 14/25a-6 and Century’s 19/2-2 on the Jurassic Dolphin prospect.
The remainder of the 13 active wells includes Maersk’s long-running Culzean HP/HT exploration well 22/13a-9Z, which kicked off at the end of May, and BG’s Jackdaw appraisal sidetrack 30/2a-7Z, which commenced early in July.
Even the SNS Gas Basin is showing an increasing tendency towards long-running wells, especially in well programmes at the critical appraisal stage: E.On’s Carboniferous Rita appraisal 44/22c-12 spudded July 6 and is approaching three months on location. Overall, the total E&A rig count has reduced, with drilling units being moved away from E&A, where appraisal wells far outweigh exploration, suggesting a lean towards the drive for accelerated cash flow, particularly so in the new cash-poor business climate.
WellSlot is courtesy of UK oil&gas consultancy Hannon Westwood LLP (www. hannonwestwood. com)