Noble Affiliates Inc. announced first oil from the Hanze Field in Block F2a of the North Sea, offshore the Netherlands, in August. The company expects Hanze production to account for 66% of overall production in the Dutch North Sea by year's end. The partners plan to complete one additional production and one injection well in the next few months. When these wells are complete, the field should swiftly reach peak production of about 30,000 b/d of oil. Hanze contains the first offshore oil chalk reservoir ever developed in the Netherlands. Noble subsidiary EDC Europe Ltd. holds a 15% interest in the field. Partners include Veba Oil & Gas GmbH subsidiary VOGNL (45%), Oranje-Nassau Energie B.V. (20%), and Dyas Nederland B.V. (20%).
Ramco Energy has contracted with Pride International for the semisubmersible Pride North Sea to begin drilling on Block 48/24 in the Seven Heads prospect 29 miles off the Cork coast of Ireland. The rig will drill one well and has the option to drill a second. The first well should reach 4,000 ft subsea in 335 ft water depth. Ramco holds 49% interest in the block. Partners in the Seven Heads project are Duke Engin-eering & Services Ltd. (26%), Island Petroleum Developments Ltd.(20%), Northern Petroleum PLC (4%), and Sunningdale Oils (Ireland) Ltd. (1%). If exploration yields sufficient gas, the group will seek regulatory approval to bring Seven Heads on stream in 2003.
In early August, Statoil began testing a riser made from a light composite developed for drilling and production in deepwater (see detailed article in the Composites Research section). The riser, which is being used on the Heidrun Field in the Norwegian Sea, is the first composite riser to be tested on live production wells. The Kværner/Conoco riser is made of carbon fiber and epoxy resin and weighs half that of an equivalent steel riser, enabling drilling rigs to double their drilling water depth constriction.
Petrobras and private partners gave up 58 oil exploration blocks to the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) as part of the process of opening the sector to competition. The relinquished areas are part of the 115 blocks Petrobras retained when laws changed in 1997. Operators had three years to find oil or return the areas. Petrobras was exploring 43 of the blocks alone and 15 with partners. Additional blocks have been auctioned in three annual licensing rounds that have brought major international companies into the ranks of investors.
The British Columbia government is considering lifting a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development. Federal and provincial governments arrested activity on 22 million acres under lease nearly 30 years ago. Some companies that were forced to shelve plans still hold drilling rights in those areas. According to the Geological Survey of Canada, the area off Queen Charlotte Islands on the province's north coast has reserves of 9.8 billion bbl of oil and 25.9 tcf of natural gas. Public hearings on the issue are to begin this fall in northern and coastal communities and should be complete by the end of March 2002.
Parker Drilling's Sunkar on the Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea.
A number of major oil companies, including BP and Shell have joined to exploit the possibly enormous Kashagan oilfield in the Kazakhstan region of the Caspian Sea. Early tests have yielded a range of estimates for recoverable oil (10-30 billion bbl). Early analysis indicates that the Kashagan site could push the country's overall production level to 2 million b/d, a figure that places Kazakhstan on a par with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran. The Kashagan site was spotted by the Soviets in 1970, but technical difficulties made it impossible to exploit at that time. Reserves are three miles down and are protected by a mile-thick layer of limestone. In 1993, Kazakhstan achieved independence and entered into a partnership with a consortium of international oil majors to form the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Co. (OKIOC) to explore its portion of the Caspian. The consortium includes BP, Shell, Exxon, TotalFinaElf, and a division of Italy's ENI. Kashagan will be developed by ENI's Agip Caspian division.
China's Bohai Sea could provide a significant boost in oil production in the next five years if China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) follows through with plans to build 50 platforms in northern China. This could raise Bohai's crude output from 3.58 million tons/year at present to 20 million tons/year by 2005. Peak production is expected to hit 35 million tons/ year by 2010. China will invest $1billion to build 1,100 production wells and additional offsite facilities offshore Tianjin. Since June, CNOOC and its foreign partners have discovered 3 billion tons of crude oil reserves at Bohai. CNOOC plans to bring the Qinghaungdao 32-6 Field on stream by the end of this year with initial flow expected at 25,000 b/d. CNOOC holds 51% of Qinghaungdao 32-6. BP and Texaco jointly hold the remaining 49%.
South Africa's Sasol Petroleum Ltd. has announced the names of the contractors on their shortlist for building a $600 million pipeline to supply natural gas from offshore Mozambique to South Africa. The contractors are: South Africa's Grinaker, in partnership with McConnel Dowell and C.C.C. of Lebanon; Italy's Saipem, in partnership with Spain's Impresa Gizzoni; Bechtel (US); Dodsal (India); France's Spie-Capag, in partnership with Fluor Daniel and Concor Holdings; and Australia's Transfield, in partnership with Murray & Roberts and Petronas unit OGP Pipelines. The proposed 870 km pipeline will run from the Temane and Pande gas fields in the Inhambane province of Mozambique to Ressano Garcia on the border and to Secunda in South Africa. Sasol's chemical plants in Sasolburg will be converted from coal feedstock to gas. In the second phase of the project, gas will be used as a supplementary feedstock to coal at Sasol's synthetic fuel plants at Secunda. Sasol also has plans to use the Mozambique gas to expand its domestic pipeline network, which currently serves approximately 700 industrial customers in three South African provinces. The contract for the pipeline is expected to be awarded by the end of 2001, with gas flow from the pipeline planned for early 2003.