Could New Wells Rejuvenate the UK’s North Sea Oil Production?

Could New Wells Rejuvenate the UK’s North Sea Oil Production?

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During my 4-week micro-placement internship with MapStand I have been collating and analysing data on upcoming activity in the North Sea, including planned drilling projects and newly discovered prospects. I have collated this information into the following maps in order to highlight four of the key areas with high-impact wells being drilled later in 2019.

Planned well summary map

Map showing key proposed well locations in the UK North Sea (Source: MapStand Limited)

Oil production in the UK North Sea has experienced an overall decline over the last 20 years, from a peak at 2.8 million barrels per day in 1999 to a low of 470 thousand barrels per day in 2014. This could be mostly attributed to dwindling accessible reserves, due to a lack of technology available for efficient hydrocarbon extraction, followed by the 2014 crash in oil prices. However, since 2014 UK oil production has seen an increase, marking a distinct change from previous years of steady decline.

One of many causes for this is the development of high-impact drilling technology, allowing for wells to be drilled in multiple high-reserve prospects in the North Sea. For example, the 22/21c-13 well drilled by CNOOC on the Glengorm field in 2018 returned a commercially viable resource of gas and condensate from a pre-drill estimate of 250 MMBOE.

warwick well

Map showing proposed well locations of Hurricane Energy's Warwick and Lincoln Crestal wells, and the location of the failed Warwick Deep well (Source: MapStand Limited)

After the success of Glengorm, Hurricane Energy announced their intent to drill for oil and gas on the Warwick prospect to the west of the Shetland Isles. The 205/26b-13 Warwick Deep well had a pre-drill estimate of 935 MMBOE and a 77% chance of success, so was expected to be a major new resource for the company. The well was spudded on the 16th of April 2019 by the Transocean Leader rig. However, at a total depth of 1,964m the well was announced as an uncommercial success due to reaching a poorly connected area of fractured basement.

Even so, Hurricane will continue to drill the Greater Warwick area, which contains both Warwick and Lincoln prospects, as part of a three well plan. After the poor outcome of Warwick Deep, the rig moved on to spud the 205/26b-B Lincoln Crestal well on the 12th of July 2019, aiming for an estimated 150 MMBOE of oil reserves. The third and final well of Hurricane’s project in the area will be the 204/30b-A Warwick well, due to spud in the third or fourth quarter of 2019. It will be situated further west on the Warwick prospect than the previous attempt, though aiming for the same 935 MMBOE at a shallower depth.

chimera

Map showing proposed well location of Cairn Energy's Chimera well (Source: MapStand Limited)

Another high-potential prospect to the east of the Shetland Isles is Chimera, operated by Cairn Energy. The 3/17a well is due to be spud in the third quarter of 2019 by the Stena Don rig, with a pre-drill estimate of 154 MMBOE. The primary objective for this well is oil stored in a deposit of Palaeocene Heimdal turbidites, with a potential secondary target of Eocene turbidites. This deposit was previously deemed unsuitable for commercial-purpose drilling, though a new approach by Cairn Energy has the potential for Chimera to become a major new resource.

serenity

Map showing proposed well locations of i3 Energy's Serenity-1 well and the adjacent Tain discovery (Source: MapStand Limited)

Although the North Sea is a mature resource for oil, there are still some overlooked or undiscovered prospects which have high potential. The Serenity prospect, operated by i3 Energy, is one of these. Believed to be an extension of the lower cretaceous Tain discovery, it was previously overlooked until appraisal drilling on Tain suggested high potential for Serenity. Appraisal well 13/23c Serenity-1 is planned to be spud by the Blackford Dolphin rig towards the end of the third quarter of 2019. A pre-drill estimate of 197 MMBOE has been made based on oil column thickness and data from the Tain wells.

As seen at Warwick Deep, a large pre-drill estimate and high calculated chance of success does not guarantee a commercial success. Even so, if any of these four wells are successful, they pose a substantial boost to North Sea oil production, aiding in rejuvenating the previously-declining industry.

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