UK well activity up but development drilling down on last month

A total of 15 E&A wells were active at the end of October . . . eight exploration and seven appraisals . . . bringing the total number of spuds this year to 37, that is, 19 exploration and 18 appraisal.

Additionally, 13 sidetracks have kicked-off, along with six re-spuds (twice that at the last review) and, with no change on last month, two re-entries, bringing the total number of UK well starts this year to 58.

Current E&A drilling activity remains focused in the Central North Sea (CNS), where a 50% increase on last month is noted. Three wells are currently active in the Northern North Sea (NNS), along with two West of Shetland (WoS) and, for the first time this year, one well West of Britain.

At the time of reporting 40 mobile units were active in the sector, an increase of two on last month. Nineteen are on development/production drilling operations, for which 23 wells are currently active, a significant reduction of 15 on last month’s count of 38. The remaining four active development wells are being drilled from platform slots.


The CNS is again the busiest arena with nine active wells, Maersk completed its Brochel appraisal 15/18a-13 after 63 days (16 at TD), with its Balloch appraisal 15/20a-19 spudded mid-month by the Ton van Langeveld.

To the south Maersk continues appraisal sidetrack 30/1d-12Z on the Ockley discovery. Apache has wrapped operations on its

twice-sidetracked Crenulate (previously Aviat) appraisal 22/7a-6Y.

Nexen spudded exploration well 20/7-7 using the Transocean Prospect on the Upper Jurassic Bardolph prospect and Polecat East appraisal 20/4a-11 utilising the GSF Arctic 3.

Meanwhile, well 30/11c-6C, where the WilHunter is drilling Suncor’s high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) Romeo prospect, is now on its third re-spud, reportedly the result of glacial boulders on the sea bed.

Further HP/HT operations continue with exploration well 22/4b-6 on the White Bear prospect, where BG is reportedly conducting testing, whilst activity continues at Centrica’s Bligh/Christian Deep appraisal 21/20d-8 (Galaxy 2), where drilling started mid-June.

Premier is drilling ahead with Spaniards East appraisal 15/21a-60 utilising Awilco’s semi-submersible WilPhoenix and, just 30km to the northeast, EnQuest began appraisal drilling in early October on its Kildrummy discovery, with re-spudded well 15/17a-28A.


In the NNS, exploration well 211/27e-13 on South Hutton was slipped in by Fairfield prior to month end, whilst Total’s re-entered Fettercairn well 3/15a-15 continues.

Taqa has made a discovery on the Contender prospect with deviated step-out well 211/21-N94 from the Cormorant North Platform. Operations should be complete early month.

The only development drilling noted in the NNS is EnQuest’s well 211/18-A59 from the Thistle A platform.


In the SNS the paucity of E&A drilling is offset to some degree by six development/production wells targeting Breagh, Tyne North and South, Katy, Babbage and Clipper South. Shell is expected to spud a well on its Denver prospect before the year-end.


Two wells are West of Shetland; both utilising drillships. BP’s long-running North Uist/Cardhu exploration well 213/25c-1W continues with its fourth, supposedly mechanical, sidetrack now over 60 days into operations. A result before year end is possible.

Dong spudded exploration well 208/17-3 early October targeting the Palaeocene Cragganmore prospect. When completed the drillship will move to the Glenrothes prospect to plug and abandon currently suspended well 208/11-1.

In the East Irish Sea Centrica spudded the first West of Britain well this year, with 113/27b-8 appraising its Triassic Rhyl North discovery.

Despite the notable increase in E&A drilling activity over the rather lowly levels of 2011, exploration successes appear down.Only Carnably (Premier) has made the headlines, though Taqa may have a small commercial find with Contender.

A fruitful Autumn on the NCS

Six E&A wells are currently active . . . no change since last month; that’s four exploration and two appraisal wells. This brings the total spuds for 2012 so far to 29, comprising 23 exploration and six appraisal, along with four sidetracks and one re-entry; in all, 33 well starts so far in Norwegian waters.

As ever, the North Sea dominates, accounting for four of the six current wells, with one each for the Norwegian and Barents Seas.

Last month’s rig count of 34 mobiles has remained static, although the Rowan Norway is expected join from the UK sector soon.

In the North Sea, Wintershall spudded exploration well 16/1-16 with the dual objectives well targeting the Lower Cretaceous Noor and Upper Jurassic Asha prospects.

Total recorded a success with its Garantiana well 34/6-2 S with reports of an oil discovery, and sidetracked it at month-end with the aim of proving up additional oil volumes in the Jurassic Cook Formation and determining oil-water contact.

The third active exploration probe, Talisman’s Isbjørn well 16/10-5, spudded at the start of the month and is targeting the Upper Jurassic Ula formation reservoir.

Lundin’s sidetrack well 16/2-13 A, one of two concurrent Johan Sverdrup appraisals, slipped in as an end of August completion (P&A oil), whilst the second, well 16/2-14, also with indications of success, continues (Statoil).

Meanwhile, Det Norske wrapped operations on its Triassic Geite prospect, with Well 7/11-13 abandoned as a dry hole after 43 days.

In the Norwegian Sea Statoil spudded exploration well 6607/12-3 with the West Alpha, which is targeting the Middle Jurassic Jette prospect, whilst Lundin, with the Bredford Dolphin, abandoned its re-entered Albert exploration well 6201/11-3Re mid-month as an oil discovery.

In the Barents, Eni was successful on exploration well 7220/10-1, where a (currently sub-commercial) gas discovery was made on the Salina prospect. The Scarabeo 8 then moved to production drill on Eni’s nearby Goliat field.

A six day drilling hiatus was rectified with the spudding of well 7120/6-3 S where Lundin is targeting the Lower Cretaceous/Upper Jurassic Snurrevad-Juksa prospect.

Making the inevitable comparisons with the UK, it looks a decidedly healthier year on the NCS with more discoveries (9 v 2) having been made from fewer exploration well spuds (19 v 23).

David Moseley’s column is courtesy of North Sea analysts Hannon Westwood