In the UK, nine of the 37 mobile units in the sector remain active on E&A wells, the same number as last reported. There have now been 23 well spuds in 2012 comprising 11 exploration and 12 appraisal wells, with five of these having been sidetracked.
Fourteen mobile units are actively involved in development/production drilling – an increase of three on the last report.
Activity includes Nexen’s CNS Blackbird field (Transocean Prospect), Shell’s CNS Fram field (Ocean Guardian back from the Falklands) and ConocoPhillips’ SNS Katy field (formerly Harrison) with the jack-up Maersk Resolve, which recently moved into the UK sector from Denmark.
Platform operations account for a further seven development/production wells. The majority of the remainder of the UK rig pool is tied up on non-drilling field operations and abandonment duties, with four port (two stacked and two preparing for contract).
West of Shetland
E&A activity West of Shetland has increased with the return of the West Phoenix to resume drilling operations on Total’s well 205/9-2 on the Palaeocene Tomintoul prospect. The rig suspended the well in April 2012 to support Elgin well kill operations in the Central North Sea. The drillship Stena Carron continues operations on BP’s North Uist/Cardhu well 213/25c-1Y in 1,288m (4,226ft) of water, four months since the initial well was spudded.
Northern North Sea
With the abandonment of Apache well 3/17-2 (Borgsten Dolphin) on the Tertiary Tryfan prospect, the rig moved to Causway field development for Valiant. E&A activity in the Northern North Sea is back to a single operation; Xcite’s test of horizontal sidetrack, well 9/3b-7Z, using the Rowan Norway jack-up on the Bentley heavy oil accumulation.
Central North Sea
Five CNS wells are active, most recent being Ithaca’s spud of Hurricane (Palaeocene) east flank appraisal, well 29/10b-8, on July 2 with the WilHunter. Slipping through the net in the last report was the June 21 spud of Centrica’s Bligh (Jurassic) appraisal, well 21/20d-8, with the Galaxy II.
BG continues operations on well 22/4b-6 (Rowan Gorilla VI) on the Upper Jurassic White Bear prospect, as does Nexen on the Buzzard North Terrace appraisal, well 20/1-12A, (GSF Arctic III) where flow testing is underway ahead of a geological sidetrack. The jack-up Ensco 101 remains the most southerly active CNS rig, operating on Ockley appraisal well 30/1d-12, nearly six months since spud on March 4.
In the Elgin field, Total suspended well 22/30c-K1 (Sedco 714) in early July after 82 days. The rig is expected to remain on location near the relief well for the duration of the jack-up Rowan Viking’s programme to set cement plugs in well 22/30c-G4.
Southern North Sea
No change is noted in the SNS, where gas has been tested from the horizontal reservoir section in Dana’s Platypus (Rotliegendes) appraisal, well 48/1a-6.
Just one well spud in July to date represents the lowest number of monthly starts in the year to date. This is in marked contrast to March when seven wells were started.
That said, combined E&A spuds for the year are 54% up on the same period in 2011, which represents a 33% rise in appraisal drilling and an 84% jump in exploration spuds. One factor coming into play in the tight market appears to be a shift of mobile units from development and production drilling to E&A work; the number of development wells spudded being almost a third down on the same period in 2011.
Three E&A wells are active in the Norwegian sector – all exploratory – bringing the year-to-date total to 19 spuds (14 exploration and 5 appraisal). No change is noted in the number of sidetracks; just one initiated in the sector this year.
With only two rigs in port being readied for future contracts and three active on E&A wells, the remainder of the current pool of some 32 mobile units is either wrapping up E&A operations, transiting or assigned to production/development duties.
Two wells remain active in the North Sea – both exploratory – Statoil’s 2/4-21 (King Lear Prospect) with the Maersk Gallant jack-up; and Wintershall’s well 33/6-4 on the Kakelborg prospect spudded by the Borgland Dolphin on July 5.
Faroes Petroleum abandoned Clapton prospect, well 2/8-18 S (Maersk Guardian) with oil shows. Statoil abandoned two exploration wells as dry; well 34/7-35 S (Karpe and Svarthå prospects) with the Ocean Vanguard, and 35/2-3 on the Odden prospect with the Scarabeo 8. Most recently the Songa Delta has been abandoning Suncor’s 33/6-3 S Beta Statfjord South appraisal as a dry hole, following delineation of the original Beta discovery.
One well remains active in the Norwegian Sea; Centrica’s Cooper prospect, well 6506/11-9 S with the West Alpha expected shortly to flow test the Middle Jurassic Garn formation.
BP well 6507/3-9 S, on the Outer Snadd prospect (Upper Cretaceous) and drilled using the Polar Pioneer, was abandoned as a gas discovery (Lysing formation) in mid-July with the rig scheduled for Skarv Field development drilling.
No activity is reported in the Barents Sea.
So once again a quiet month in the Norwegian sector with just two spuds, albeit double the number on the UKCS. Whilst the number of exploration spuds in Norwegian waters is approaching 180% that of appraisal well spuds, it is in marked contrast to the UKCS where the differential is 10%, and in favour of appraisal drilling.
Only BP’s Outer Snadd discovery has saved the Norwegian sector from a rather dismal month, although positive results from Faroe’s Cooper prospect will be eagerly awaited in August.
Simon Robertshaw’s column is courtesy of North Sea analysts Hannon Westwood.