High-impact drilling focused on the Americas, Africa

Feb. 1, 2022
Seventy-four high-impact exploration wells were completed worldwide last year, according to Westwood Global Energy Group.

High-impact drilling focused on the Americas, Africa

Seventy-four high-impact exploration wells were completed worldwide last year, according to Westwood Global Energy Group.

Activity was at a similar level to 2016-2018, but returns fell to 8.6 Bboe, down from 19 Bboe in 2020, split 64% gas and 36% oil.

However, the commercial success rate of 31% last year was up on the 23% averaged in 2016-2018, said Jamie Collard, senior analyst, Global Exploration and Appraisal at Westwood.

Most of the major new finds were in Russia, the largest elsewhere appearing to be Eni’s Baleine in deepwater offshore Côte d’Ivoire.

Only 15 frontier exploration wells were completed, the lowest (according to Westwood) since 2008, and only one delivered even a modest commercial discovery.

The main emerging exploration play was the Upper Cretaceous offshore Suriname-Guyana, bringing four discoveries with reserves of ~1 Bboe. In more mature plays drilling led to 13 potentially commercial finds, but only seven of those appear to be >100 MMboe.

Most active high-impact explorers were ExxonMobil (13 wells), TotalEnergies, Petronas, and Shell (nine each).

The dip in frontier exploration drilling suggests the industry is less concerned with long-term renewal of resources and is instead focusing on quicker returns, Collard said.

This year’s drilling plans suggests the pattern will continue with 70-80 high impact wells expected to complete during 2022.

Locations to watch will be South America’s Suriname-Guyana basin, offshore Brazil, the US and Mexican sectors of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Flemish Pass off Eastern Canada.

Other frontier tests are planned in Africa’s Orange, Rio Muni, Mozambique, and Lamu basins.

In Northwest Europe, ~10 high-impact wells should be drilled, while a largest prospect is due to be drilled in the Iranian Caspian Sea.

Westwood estimates the combined unrisked pre-drill resource potential in 2022 of ~30 Bboe.

This year’s exploration line-up is dominated by commitment wells on licenses acquired prior to 2020, Collard pointed out.

Norway set to sustain high oil and gas production levels

Record high gas prices helped Norway achieve record revenues from offshore production of hydrocarbons last year, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).

A total of 94 fields were in production, and the NPD expects output to remain stable and high over the next few years.

In fact, due to the recent new discoveries and new field developments in the pipeline, production should rise between now and 2024, said director general Ingrid Sølvberg.

Production in 2021 amounted to 642 MMbbl of oil and 113 bcm, equivalent to 4 MMboe/d.

The five fields that came onstream were Duva, Yme, Solveig, and Martin Linge in the North Sea and Ærfugl in the northern Norwegian Sea.

Phase 1 of the Johan Sverdrup field in the North Sea is now operating at capacity with Phase 2 on track to start up later this year. At peak, Sverdrup should account for 35% of Norway’s entire oil production.

Last year companies collectively spent around NOK150 billion ($17.32 billion) on fields and development of Norwegian discoveries. Although this was down on the total for 2020, investments should start to rise again from 2023-2025, with the likelihood of high and profitable production toward 2030.

From that point current projections suggest a decline, although the extent and speed will in part depend on how much additional oil and gas are proven over the next few years.

At the same time, CO2 emissions from Norway’s fields continues to fall, largely due to increased use of power from shore. The government aims to halve emissions in 2030 (compared with the level in 2005).

The 40 exploration wells drilled on the Norwegian shelf last year led to 18 oil and gas discoveries, with two further finds made via production wells with exploration targets. The discoveries boosted the country’s resources by 510 MMboe.

This year the NPD anticipates 30-40 exploration wells across the shelf. Later in the current quarter the association will announce awards following for the 2021 APA licensing round.

Later this year the wind turbines for Equinor’s Hywind Tampen project should be installed in the North Sea. These will supply electricity to the Gullfaks and Snorre field complexes.

As for CO2 storage on the Norwegian shelf, the NPD’s latest estimates suggest potential to store 80 billion metric tons, equivalent to 1,500 years of Norwegian emissions at the current level.

More established companies on the shelf and new players are looking for CO2 injection acreage, with the authorities receiving applications from five companies following the announcement of two areas in 2021.

One Norwegian independent, Lime Petroleum, entered an agreement with Nautilus Carbon Services to participate in the first phase of a larger project to secure a storage site offshore Norway for injection and permanent storage of CO2.

Mooring of bp’s Argos platform successfully completed

InterMoor reports that it has completed the tow and hook-up of the floating production unit (FPU) Argos.

InterMoor provided mooring engineering and offshore support for Subsea 7, the main contractor for the EPCI portion of the project on behalf of bp. The FPU was built for the Mad Dog 2 field in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, in water depth of about 1,360 m.  

Subsea 7, with InterMoor’s support, first performed the mooring line pre-lay, installing over 8,220 m of chain. The team then towed the FPU from Ingleside, Texas, to its final offshore site in the Green Canyon area, and hooked up the FPU to the pre-laid mooring lines using Island Offshore’s anchor handling vessel Island Victory.

InterMoor’s work scope also included equipment marshalling and dock services from their shore base in Fourchon, Louisiana.

The mooring system is a 12-point mooring system with three lines arranged in each corner of the FPU. Each mooring line consists of a suction anchor, a 171-mm R4S ground chain segment, two polyester rope segments, and a 171-mm R4S platform chain segment.