In the first half of 2010, 25 exploration wells had been completed on the Norwegian Shelf, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. During the same period last year, 33 exploration wells were drilled.
19 of the 25 are wildcat wells (new prospects) and six are appraisal wells (for delineation of earlier discoveries). Nine discoveries were made during the first half of 2010 – five in the North Sea and four in the Norwegian Sea.
Four of the discoveries in the North Sea were made north of the Snorre field in the northern part of the North Sea, while one discovery was made at the Frigg field in the central part of the North Sea.
Ongoing drilling activity
At the end of the first half of 2010, seven exploration wells were being drilled – four in the North Sea and three in the Norwegian Sea. In deep water (1354 metres) in production licence 326 in the Norwegian Sea, Shell is drilling appraisal well 6604/10-1 on the Gro discovery, proven in 2009. It is expected that the well will reach the reservoir in July. The Dalsnuten prospect (production licence 392) will be drilled after the Gro well. Dalsnuten is also operated by Shell, and the prospect lies in the same area in deep water. The drilling facility Aker Barents is used on both Gro and Dalsnuten.
In addition, two wildcat wells are being drilled in the Åsgard area by Wintershall and RWE Dea Norge, respectively. Four exploration wells are being drilled in the North Sea. Wildcat well 15/3-9 (Brynhild in production licence 187, close to the Gudrun field) is operated by Statoil. The well, which has exploration targets in Jurassic rock, will soon reach the reservoir. Further south, Talisman is drilling appraisal well 15/12-23 A in production licence 038 D. The well is being drilled in the Grevling discovery, proven in 2009.
ConocoPhillips is drilling wildcat well 8/10-3 just north of the Ekofisk area. The well is being drilled in the Megeladon prospect at a depth of 5340 metres. The well, which is scheduled for completion in December, is important for the further exploration of the deep exploration targets in the southern North Sea. West of Ula, BG Norge is in the process of completing well 1/3-12 S in the Mandarin prospect. This is the deepest well ever drilled on the Norwegian shelf (more than 5900 m deep).
The Barents Sea
There has been no exploration activity in the Barents Sea so far in 2010. The drilling facility Polar Pioneer will start a drilling campaign in the north in October. The first well will be drilled in the Skrugard prospect, west of Lopphøgda, in production licence 532. The well is operated by Statoil. This was a popular area in the 20th Licensing Round. Eni will then drill two exploration wells - one in the Alke area (production licence 489, awarded in APA 2008), and one in production licence 533 west of Lopphøgda, awarded in the 20th Licensing Round.
The NPD's forecast of 40 to 50 exploration wells spudded in 2010 seems to hold true, although the drilling programs so far are not coming in at the same pace as last year. One cause of this is Statoil's reduction in exploration activity compared with 2009.