LONDON – Exploration is set to pick up offshore Norway this year, despite a 10-year low for new oil discoveries in the sector in 2017, according to Westwood Energy.
In the UK offshore, the consultant adds, the focus this year is likely to switch toward pursuit of gas.
Last year, the 10 exploration wells drilled in the Norwegian Barents Sea failed to deliver a single standalone commercial discovery, and commercial success rates for wells across the Norwegian shelf was 20%, claimed Dave Moseley, Northwest Europe Research at Westwood.
In the UK North Sea, five potentially high-impact wells (testing 100 MMboe-plus prospects) were drilled but results were disappointing, delivering one sole commercial success with probable resources in the range of 100 MMbbl.
However, high success rates in infrastructure-led exploration wells near established UK production hubs in 2017 meant commercial success rates in this sector have now increased year-on-year since 2013, reaching more than 40%.
The result was the highest oil volumes proven in UK waters since 2009, with results from three wells still pending.
This year Moseley expected around 15 exploration wells to be drilled in the UK offshore, similar to last year, with pre-drill prospective resources of 1 Bboe, of which around 750 MMboe is gas.
Strongest prospects areLyon (gas) west of Shetland, and Isabella and Rowallan (gas condensate) in the central North Sea, all potentially more than 100 MMboe.
But by the end of the year there will be few outstanding commitment wells on the UK shelf and as a result drilling activity will be largely discretionary and may be more difficult to sustain, Moseley claimed.
Offshore Norway, Statoil plans to operate five high impact exploration tests in the Barents Sea this year and to participate in 20-25 further E&A wells.
Overall, Westwood expects 35-40 exploration and appraisal wells to drill offshore Norway this year, much higher than in 2016.
Elsewhere in northwest Europe, a Woodside-operated exploration well on the Beaufort/Ventry gas prospect could be the next high-impact well offshore Ireland, while in the Dutch North Sea, Hansa Hydrocarbons is likely to follow up on its Ruby gas discovery from 2017.