When compared with 2008, the pace of activity in the UKCS remains subdued, with only eight mobile rigs currently active on exploration and appraisal drilling – the same as last month – of which two are drilling sidetracks.
Thus far, five wells, broadly balanced between exploration and appraisal, have been started this year. In addition, 14 sidetracks were initiated, 11 being appraisal and one well re-entry.
Half the current activity is in the Central North Sea. On block 20/1, Nexen continues to keep two rigs active. Most recently, 20/1-10, an appraisal of the Golden Eagle offset discovery, Hobby South, spudded on May 19 using the rig, Transocean Prospect. This was the rig that previously drilled the Hobby discovery well, 20/1-8, and three appraisal sidetracks.
The GSF Arctic 4 abandoned Pink appraisal 20/1-9 after 30 days. It remains to be seen if a sidetrack is initiated.
Talisman continues with the 22/22a-7 exploration well on the Jurassic Shaw prospect with the Ocean Nomad. CNR’s Deep Banff appraisal was sidetracked on May 10 after 114 days.
GDF SUEZ’s well 22/24c-11 is targeting the HP/HT (high pressure/high temperature) Triassic Tesla prospect, and was started on April 30. Expectation is that this probe will be of long duration, with the Ensco 101 likely to be on location for more than 90 days.
Meanwhile, Total has suspended operations on the Kessog extended well test, but the Sedco 714 is expected to return following a workover on the Jura field.
In the Southern North Sea, the Noble Julie Robertson is the sole active rig and has been operating on Venture’s 49/4c-7Z appraisal of the Rotliegendes Kew discovery for more than 142 days. A pilot hole was drilled, then plugged back and sidetracked, to evaluate the northern part of the structure. Gas has been proven and the well is to be suspended as a potential future producer. The result has positive implications for the operator’s Carboniferous Wandsworth prospect, likely to see drilling in 2010.
No E&A activity is reported from the Northern North Sea.
West of Shetland, the drillship, Stena Carron, abandoned Chevron’s Rosebank North well 213/27-3Z after 27 days in sidetrack, the whole programme having lasted six months. It then mobilised to spud Hess’s Palaeocene Cambo appraisal, 204/10a-3, on May 20. Chevron, DONG and OMV are partners.
Chrysaor has returned to drill a further appraisal on Solan, with well 205/26a-8 commencing on May 17 with the Byford Dolphin.
In the East Irish Sea, the long-awaited multi-well programme for the EIS consortium commenced on May 1 with the Ensco 92. EOG’s 110/14b-7 was the first to be drilled, though being abandoned after just 15 days, may not have been successful.
The rig then moved 12 miles north-west to spud EOG’s second well, 110/12-6, on May 22. Over the next few months, the unit will drill wells for Challenger, Venture, BHP and Centrica/HRL.
Looking ahead, and despite a raft of recent acreage relinquishments on the UKCS, Hannon Westwood’s list of wells planned over the next three years remains steady at just below the 200 mark, with a quarter being new indications this year.
The pace with which the resource is drilled is likely to remain slow as operators with contracts continue to seek contract adjustments and sub-lets, while others will delay taking on additional rig commitments.
That said, at the time of writing, the oil price is $61, an increase of nearly 20% in the last month and 75% since the beginning of the year. This may yet translate to a sustained recovery and boost confidence – so watch this space.
Simon Robertshaw’s column is courtesy of drilling analysts Hannon Westwood LLP