£150m Solan to fly

Privately financed UK independent Chrysaor is to develop the West of Shetland Solan discovery at a cost of £150-175million, with first oil anticipated in 2010.

The decision to develop has been made following the successful re-drllling of Solan this summer using the rig, Byford Dolphin. The prize is in the order of 20million barrels of oil. The company has opted for a steel articulated tower – basically eight-metre diameter steel column with mini-topsides (not normally manned) and 300,000 barrels capacity subsea storage tank, coupled to a single production well and single water-injection well. Both will be horizontal and this year’s sidetrack will be recompleted as the producer.

This will be the first application of a compliant tower in UK waters for production purposes, though the technology has been used for tanker loading. It is inherently simple and thought well able to withstand anything that Atlantic storms can chuck at it. Export will be by shuttle tanker rather than via BP Schiehallion, which appears not to have short-term spare handling capacity.

However, Chrysaor’s CEO, Phil Kirk (formerly of Hess and CH4) told Energy that stabilised oil could yet be exported through BP Foinaven via a small-diameter pipeline that would be laid at some point in the future. Front-end design is complete and the detailed work has started.

“We’re also discussing pricing with contractors, but it won’t be necessary to award construction for some months yet,” said Kirk.

“This will most likely happen around the time we file the field development plan with Government.”

Kirk anticipates that Solan will cost £150-175million to bring onstream and that the fabrication work will go to a UK yard. It is unclear at this time as to which of Britain’s remaining facilities, of which Burntisland is the only active yard in Scotland, will secure the work.

Chrysaor’s CEO hinted strongly that the companies in the front line are not necessarily names with a North Sea track record.

The field, one of two related finds made in the 1990s (the other is Strathmore) was originally located by Amerada Hess, but shelved as non-viable, though the company did attempt to get the 205/26a finds off the ground through the UK’s short-lived Satellite Accelerator initiative of the early-2000s.

Hess eventually relinquished the licence back to the Government. However, Kirk saw the value of trying again, so secured the licence. Using the Byford Dolphin, the initial wellbore, 205/26a-7, was drilled to the north of the original 205/26a-4 discovery and encountered 26m (85ft) of net oil-bearing Jurassic reservoir. This was shallower and thicker compared with the pre-drill prognosis and in good pressure communication with the original discovery well.

On completion of coring, fluid sampling and other logging operations, this well was sidetracked as 205/26a-7z to provide depth control for an eventual producer well and also to appraise the associated up-dip Triassic reservoir under the western part of the Jurassic accumulation.

Neither well was conventionally flow tested as the reservoir had two previous successful well tests, including one with a downhole ESP (electric submersible pump).

Kirk told Energy that the company remained on track to submit a field development plan to the Government in Q1 2009, by which time its reservoir remodelling and development plans would have been finalised. Subject to the normal consent procedures and no hiccups during the construction phase, first oil should be achieved in the summer of 2010.

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