Investors eye North Sea prospects

Paul Boughton
Despite doubts about its long-term viability, the North Sea still is still attracting significant investment. Sean Ottewell reports. 
AMEC has been appointed by BP and its partners, Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron, to deliver the engineering and project management services (EPMS) for the main platform design for Clair Ridge, the second phase of the giant Clair oil field, West of Shetland.
The work, which is already underway, is valued at £150m (€186m) and follows the completion of the conceptual engineering studies and the define phase of the Clair Ridge project. All are part of BP's global agreement with AMEC.
The award will see AMEC deliver detailed engineering and project management services for the construction and installation phase of two new bridge-linked platforms. This includes detail design, follow-on engineering, site support, plus procurement, supply chain services, materials management and information management services for the whole project. The work will be carried out by a combined team of 600 technical experts based in AMEC's London offices.
The two new platforms are due to be installed in 2015, with production scheduled to start in 2016. BP's £4.5b (€5.6b) capital investment will give access to 640m barrels of recoverable oil, and see up to 120,000 barrels/day at peak, extending the life of the field to 2050 (Fig. 1).
“The award of this latest phase is a mark of confidence in the future of the North Sea, in our engineering expertise, and in our ability to deliver," said AMEC coo Neil Bruce.[Page Break]
Appraisal reports
The Parkmead Group has reported that the Platypus gas field appraisal well has begun drilling in the UK Southern North Sea.
The Platyplus gas field, located in Blocks 48/1a and 48/1c, lies just 18km north north west of the West Sole gas field and 15 km west south west of the Babbage gas field. The Rotliegendes gas accumulation at Platypus was discovered in 2010 by the Dana Petroleum plc operated 48/1a-5 well, which encountered 218 vertical feet of gas bearing sands and has the potential to contain up to 180b ft3 of gas in place.
The drilling operation is being undertaken by Dana Petroleum as operator. This well will be drilled horizontally through the Rotliegendes gas reservoir to confirm deliverability and is expected to be suspended for reuse as a gas producer. The other joint venture partners are First Oil Expro and CalEnergy Gas.
"We are delighted to report that Parkmead's first well in the North Sea has started drilling. The company's oil and gas portfolio is growing rapidly, with three acquisitions made in recent months, giving Parkmead a balanced asset base of production, development, appraisal and exploration opportunities," said executive chairman Tom Cross.
Meanwhile Wintershall says it has made an oil discovery at its Skarfjell prospect in the Norwegian North Sea.
The wildcat well 35/9-7, on production license 418 where Wintershall is operator, found Upper Jurassic reservoir sands of ‘very good quality’ and that contain light oil with ‘a significant oil column’. Wintershall estimates the resource to range between 60m and 160m barrels of recoverable oil, although further appraisal drilling is needed to confirm this figure.
The discovery is located approximately 10 miles southwest of the Gjoa field in the North Sea and lies between the Grosbeak discovery to the south and the Titan discovery to the north. The primary exploration target of well 35/9-7 was to prove hydrocarbons in the Upper Jurassic reservoir rocks.
"The Skarfjell discovery is another important milestone for Wintershall and adds further growth potential to our portfolio on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). We are confident of the quality of our projects both in exploration and development and continue to strongly pursue our ambitious targets for the northern North Sea," said Martin Bachmann, Wintershall exploration and production director.[Page Break]
Wintershall has a portfolio of more than 40 licenses on the NCS, which includes more than 20 operatorships. The firm aims to raises its daily production on the Norwegian and British continental shelves from a current level of around 4000 barrels of oil equivalent/d (boepd) to 50,000 boepd by 2015.
In another development, Lundin Petroleum has announced that the Johan Sverdrup appraisal well 16/2-11 located in PL501 has encountered a 54 metre gross oil column in Upper and Middle Jurassic sandstone reservoir in an oil-down-to situation.
The well is located 2.2km south-east of well 16/2-8 in PL265 and 3.3km south-west of well 16/2-6, in PL501. A comprehensive logging and coring programme has been successfully completed as well as a production test (DST) in the previously untested Middle Jurassic reservoir. The data from this first well in the 2012 PL501 appraisal programme confirmed good reservoir properties. This is in line with the earlier Johan Sverdrup wells where the Upper Jurassic reservoir was of excellent quality with a high net to gross ratio.
The well will now be side-tracked towards the east to investigate the lateral thickness and property variations of the Jurassic reservoir as well as to establish an oil water contact to investigate the possibility of a deeper oil-water-contact in this area. The well will then be plugged and abandoned. The total depth of the well is 2125 metres.
Ashley Heppenstall, president and ceo of Lundin Petroleum, commented, "We are pleased with the latest appraisal well which was in line with our pre drill forecast and has provided us with excellent data for development planning purposes. It has confirmed as with the previous Johan Svedrup wells, the excellent reservoir characteristics of the field as well as encountering the reservoir at the prognosed depth. In view of the upcoming further appraisal drilling on Johan Svedrup in PL501 and in PL265 we have decided to delay the release of updated resource estimates most likely until after the completion of this year’s drilling programme."[Page Break]
Lundin Norway is the operator with 40 per cent interest. Its partners are Statoil Petroleum with 40 per cent and Maersk Oil Norway with 20 per cent.
Finally, Xcite Energy says that its Bentley phase 1A work programme is now at the blowout preventer installation stage.
The work programme has two main objectives. Firstly, the 9/03b-7 and 7Z wells are planned to demonstrate the mechanical and operational aspects of the drilling, completion and flowing of the proposed well design for Phase 1B. The 9/03b-7Z well is planned to be used in Phase 1B as the first full production wellbore. Secondly, to collect additional reservoir and production data to improve the calibration of the reservoir model, including data with respect to enhanced oil recovery techniques. This data will be used to further increase the certainty with respect to the longer term oil, gas and water production profiles and recoverable reserves from the Bentley field.
The Phase 1A work programme involves a number of key operations, including drilling of a horizontal motherbore well in the geological formation immediately overlying the reservoir; and drilling of the toe extension well (9/03b-7 well), being a horizontal wellbore from the toe of the motherbore, with a reservoir section of up to 2400 feet in length.
The 9/03b-7 wellbore is planned to recover a minimum cumulative volume of 45,000 barrels of oil during the flow test period to help ensure that the data gathering will be as effective as possible. This flow test is planned to be up to 90 days in length and to be conducted at a range of different flow rates, again to assist in the data gathering programme. [Page Break]
Ithaca boosts stake in Carna to 32 per cent
Text: Ithaca Energy has agreed to take over operatorship and increase its working interest in the Carna discovery, located in the southern gas basin of the UK North Sea. The transaction with Centrica North Sea Gas increases the company's working interest in the Carna discovery from 16 per cent to 32 per cent. The financial terms of the transaction remain confidential.
The Carna discovery straddles blocks 43/21b and 43/22c and lies adjacent to the producing Garrow and Kilmar gas fields, which constitute the Tors facilities. The discovery was made in early 2009 when a gas column in excess of 1490 feet true vertical depth (TVD) and net pay of 127 feet TVD was encountered in well 43/21b-5Z. The well tested gas at a gross stabilised rate of 8.8m ft3/d on a 48/64th choke from a vertical well penetrating the Carboniferous.
Ithaca has agreed to a work programme with all of the joint venture partners to accelerate development studies of the Carna discovery and, if appropriate, to submit a field development plan for approval to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change before the end of this year.
Following this transaction, the joint venture partners have the following interests in the Carna discovery: Ithaca Energy (UK), operator, 32 per cent; Dyas UK, 24 per cent; Centrica, 40 per cent; EWE Energie, 4 per cent.
Fig. 1. The Clair oil field will see its life extended to beyond 2050 with the latest investment there.

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