US oil major ConocoPhillips confirmed yesterday that it was exploring in the North Sea at a time when doubts are being cast on its desire to stay in the region long term.
ConocoPhillips recently agreed to sell 16.5% of its stake in the Clair field to BP, leaving it with 7.5% of the west of Shetland asset.
An analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie subsequently said ConocoPhillips’ full withdrawal from the North Sea seemed likely to follow.
The firm also plans to lay off about 450 workers across the UK over the next two years.
But ConocoPhillips insisted that it was committed to the UK and said the divestment would let it focus investment on strengthening operated hubs.
ConocoPhillips said yesterday that it had a multi-well development and exploration drilling programme on-going in the central North Sea “J-Area”, which consists of the Jade, Jasmine, Joanne and Judy fields.
In its latest fleet report, vessel contractor Transocean said ConocoPhillips had booked one of its semi-submersible rigs for a 13-well contract with a one-well option in the UK North Sea.
ConocoPhillips said the Transocean 712 rig would be used for a combined drilling and abandonment programme planned for 2019 in the Greater Britannia area and wider central North Sea.
The Oil and Gas Authority recently awarded the company several central North Sea licences in the 30th bidding round.
But ConocoPhillips said those assets would not be involved in the campaign involving the Transocean 712.