Given recent exploration success on the Newfoundland Labrador conjugate margin, Ireland’s Atlantic margin, particularly the Porcupine Basin, has the potential to be an exciting new frontier for exploration. Interest in Ireland’s offshore has grown rapidly in the last few years, with the most recent 2015 Atlantic Margin Licencing round being the most successful licencing round to date. A total of 43 applications were received, from 17 companies, with 75% of the applications for blocks in the Porcupine Basin. With a range of major oil companies now working on interests across the basin, the area has the potential to develop into the next exploration hotspot.
Here, as part of my work at Mapstand, I aim to identify some of the key prospects and exploration activities planned for the Porcupine Basin in the near future.
Providence Resources holds several interests in the Porcupine Basin, and their 53/6-A exploration well is one of the most hotly anticipated wells of the summer. The well will jointly target the stacked Paleocene Druid/ Cretaceous Drombeg fans of the EL2/14 licence. Both prospects show a promising AVO anomaly, and geomechanical work suggests an intact topseal, with cumulative in-place un-risked prospective resources of 5 BBO (PMean). There is potential to make two world-class discoveries after drilling commences in June.
To the north-east of Druid/Drombeg, sit the Dunquin North and Dunquin South structures. Dunquin North was drilled by ExxonMobil in 2013, one of the first wells to be drilled in decades in the basin, and proved a hydrocarbon system, but only found a residual oil column due to a breached structure. Eni has now commissioned a seismic survey to better understand Dunquin North, and appraise the Dunquin South prospect and an underlying Dunquin Ridge structure.
Europa Oil & Gas are another key licence-holder in the area, and currently looking to farm-out their nearby EL3/13 block containing the Wilde, Beckett and Shaw Cretaceous fan prospects, with gross mean unrisked prospective resources of 1.49 billion boe in the block. Europa are also working on reprocessing seismic data to mature prospects in the neighbouring LO16/2 block
Europa also holds another pair of licences (FEL2/13 and LO16/19, farmed out to Cairn) to the North of Eni’s relinquished EL1/99 block. Europa have previously mapped several L. Cretaceous slope channels in FEL2/13, and in April announced a number of leads and four new significant prospects, bringing the gross unrisked prospective resources of the block up to 1.12BBO. Technical work is ongoing to de-risk these prospects to drillable status, and Europa continues to seek a partner to farm-out interest in the block.
Meanwhile, LO16/19 contains L. Cretaceous basin floor fans, which appear to have been fed by the neighbouring FEL2/13 channels. Europa farmed out 70% interest to Cairn in March. Under the terms of the farm-out, Cairn will fund Europa’s stake in the recently announced TGS Crean 3D multi-client seismic survey that will cover the area and allow these prospects to be matured to a drillable status.
Adjacent to these blocks is the Avalon Prospect, in Providence’s LO16/27, a large N-S trending Paleocene basin-floor fan. Providence are carrying out technical work, including licencing and reprocessing existing 2D seismic over the next two years but recognise 3D seismic will likely be required before drilling.
Woodside operates a number of licences in the Northern Porcupine Basin, including EL5/13 that hosts the Ventry/Beaufort Fan Prospect. Woodside view this prospect as drill-ready, and is currently being matured as a proposed summer 2018 exploration target. Woodside also operate EL5/14, with a mixture of Palaeocene, Jurassic and Cretaceous plays identified previously by Two Seas
To the far north of the Porcupine Basin, Cairn operate FEL2/04, which contains the Spanish Point and Buuren hydrocarbon discoveries. An appraisal drilling campaign was planned for 2017 but has been deferred, pending further discussion with the partners and Irish Government. Cairn also acquired 3D seismic over FEL 1/14 directly south of Spanish Point, to better image a series of Late Jurassic and Cretaceous structural high, with a current best estimate of gross on-block unrisked prospective recoverable resources is 350 MMBOE.
With this range of prospects at different levels of maturity, and a host of technical work, seismic acquisition, drilling and farm-outs planned, the Porcupine Basin is a frontier area to watch.