At the time of writing it’s all the sevens: seven E&A wells spudded to date in 2011, seven wells completed and seven wells currently operating or drilling.
Spudded in the year to date are three exploration wells and four appraisals.
The seven wells currently active, down by three on last month, are all utilising mobile rigs; one drillship, two semi-submersibles and four jack-up units.
Four of these current operations are carry-overs, the wells having spudded during 2010.
The number of ongoing development/production wells, predominantly from mobile units, amounts to 20.
In the Northern North Sea, no change is reported as Total continues operations on Oban well 3/15a-14, now three months in, with Sedco 714 semi and Sterling’s Cladhan well 210/30a-4 with semi Transocean Prospect now one month into their appraisal programme.
Mid-March saw EnQuest’s Don Southwest appraisal 211/18a-S8 abandoned and development leg S8Z kicked-off by semi John Shaw.
The drillship Stena Carron remains on station in more than 1,554m (5,100ft) of water on Chevron’s Lagavulin prospect, well 217/15-1, the sole E&A probe active in the West of Shetland deepwater sector.
The well, chasing tertiary sands, spudded in early October 2010, although reports that a mechanical sidetrack was initiated due to downhole problems have been denied.
Three wells are currently active in the Central North Sea, a drop of two since the last report. EnCore is nearing completion on well 28/9-4Z with the Galaxy II jack-up. Eocene oil was encountered in the initial leg, and the find has been successfully appraised in the geological sidetrack. This well marks the end of this current phase of activity on Catcher block 28/9 and the rig will be released.
Maersk has completed operations in the initial sidetrack of Culzean HP/HT (high pressure/high temperature) appraisal 22/25a-10 with jackup Ensco 101.
Ahead of a planned back-to-back appraisal, a second sidetrack has been initiated from the same location.
BG’s Jackdaw appraisal well 30/2a-8, with jack-up Rowan Gorilla VI, also continues operations, almost eight months since spud.
Semi Noble Ton van Langeveld switched from E&A to development drilling following the abandonment of Centrica’s Jurassic Whitethroat exploration well 21/17a-6 after just 24 days. The rig has moved a short distance to the north to drill a crestally-located production well on the operator’s Goosander field.
Operations on Talisman’s Josephine appraisal, well 30/13a-9, with semi Ocean Princess were also completed; the successful well being suspended before the rig mobilised to development drilling on the operator’s Auk North field in the same sector.
In the Southern North Sea, just one unit is active on E&A drilling: jack-up Ensco 80 on Sterling’s Grian prospect, with well 48/28b-2 targeting Rotliegendes sands. RWE’s East Breagh appraisal, well 42/13a-6, was suspended as a successful gas delineation before the jack-up Ensco 72 was released, returning to port for upgrades.
The tax increases announced in the Budget have taken the UK industry by surprise. Superficially, in order to maintain share price and investor confidence, a small number of companies have put on a brave face. However, the collective opinion so far suggests long-term damage to the UK sector’s E&P business, just when the first glimmers of a recovery were appearing.
Less than a year ago, the requirement for stability in the sector was acknowledged by the chancellor, yet the March 22 proposals seem somewhat at odds with this.
Amidst an expected backlash from players, the merest hint of tax breaks for marginal projects has surfaced, but already at least two marginal field developments are on the point of postponement, with more possible.
These two projects alone will diminish the activity set, and further undermine the confidence required to secure capital investment and optimally utilise the UK’s remaining and not insubstantial resource.
Simon Robertshaw’s column is courtesy of North Sea drilling analysts Hannon Westwood