Offshore Europe

Norway’s Oil and Energy Ministry has awarded 10 new production licenses in the North Sea.

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Newcomers gain awards

Norway’s Oil and Energy Ministry has awarded 10 new production licenses in the North Sea. The ministry has stuck to its pledge to draw in outsiders, with foreign companies gaining six of the operatorships offered. One first-timer is Kerr-McGee, which was named sole licensee of a section of Block 33/9 that also contains part of the Murchison Field. The remainder extends across the UK median line, where Kerr-McGee is the production operator.

Another recent entrant, Germany’s RWE-DEA, secured part blocks west of Huldra and east of Visund. Denmark’s Dong, which has had designs on the Norwegian sector for some time, became sole licensee of a part-block west of Gyda. There were also two operatorships for three of the stalwarts. Phillips’ lay within reach of its Ekofisk complex. Norsk Hydro’s were situated southwest of Oseberg and east of the median line facing BG’s Amerada complex in the UK sector. The Norwegian side is virtually unexplored. Statoil’s awards were in waters adjoining Statfjord and Veslefrikk.

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Statoil may have discovered a new hydrocarbon-bearing province through the recent well drilled from the Gulfaks B platform.
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The lure of mature acreage is illustrated by recent exploration results. Hydro’s well 30/9-205, drilled by the semisubmersible Transocean Arctic just south of Oseberg, found oil in Jurassic sandstone. The reserves will be produced through the Oseberg South platform. Statoil found gas and condensate with a well drilled from the Gullfaks B platform, west of the main Gullfaks Field. The well was later sidetracked, terminating in the late Jurassic, although the reserves are thought to lie within the Cretaceous. If this is the case, Statoil may have opened up a previously untapped horizon in this area.

By contrast, BP’s much higher profile well on Havsule in the Moere Basin off mid-Norway was bone dry. The well was drilled by the semi Scarabeo V over three months in 1,495 m water depth, setting a new depth record for the Norwegian sector. BP had high hopes of a sizeable gas discovery, particularly within Creta-ceous and Tertiary intervals.

Trans-shelf gas link proposed

Havsule is located 50 km from the giant Ormen Lange gas field, where Norsk Hydro is the operator. Hydro has been working on ways to funnel the gas to the UK mainland, in readiness for Britain’s coming gas supply shortfall.

Marathon recently upped the tempo in this regard by proposing a new 675-km pipeline that would round up gas from fields in the Heimdal area, and others en route in the UK sector, terminating at or close to the Bacton terminal on England’s east coast. The company claimed the line could be operational by 2005, with a capacity of 900 MMcf/d, guaranteeing supplies to the UK market for at least 20 years. It plans talks with UK and Norwegian gas-field owners over potential allocations through the new line. The project is already endorsed by UK gas utility Centrica.

The route of the line would take in Marathon’s Brae complex, BP’s Miller, and ChevronTexaco/ Conoco’s Britannia. Brae, like Heimdal, has spare compression and processing capacity, even allowing for the planned single-well subsea tieback of the Braemar gas-condensate field to the East Brae platform.

Phillips eyes Jade Phase 2

Phillips’ Jade, one of the few new platform-based developments in the UK North Sea, was onstream late February. Initial output of 60 MMcf/d of gas and 4,500 b/d of light oil should climb to a plateau rate of 200 MMcf/d and 16,000 b/d by late summer, once the first batch of development wells is complete. One of these will double as an exploration well in order to test a deep horizon in this high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) field. Accor-ding to the company’s European division president, Henry McGee, a second-phase development could follow, encompassing other nearby oil and gas accumulations. Jade lies in UK Block 30/2c. Its normally unmanned platform is connected to the Judy processing complex 12 miles to the north via a 16-in. multi- phase, pipe-in-pipe line.

Jade is one of 15 new fields due to start up this year across the UK North Sea, according to analysts Wood Mackenzie. Most of the rest are subsea or extended-reach well exercises, with combined reserves of 214 MMbbl of liquids and 1.4 tcf of gas. Overall, UK Continental Shelf production this year should match 2001 levels, the analysts predict. Although most of the producing fields are in decline, this should be countered by peak output from some of the newer developments, such as Elgin-Franklin, Shearwater, Blake, and Leadon. Only three fields – Brimmond, North West Hutton, and Sedgwick – are likely to cease production for good.

Shearwater recently went back in service after a two-month shutdown, caused by a leaking condensate pipe. In addition to repairing the pipe, Shell took the opportunity to undertake extensive platform inspection to prevent future incidents. Production on the HP/HT field was previously suspended for eight months during 2000-2001 in response to higher-than-normal pressure in one of the wells. Following remedial work, this well is due back onstream in May.

Freja plan causes friction

Amerada Hess wants to limit the scope of its long-delayed Freja development to the oil reserves on the Norwegian side of the median line with Denmark. Freja was originally two fields, Amerada’s Mjolner in the Norwegian sector and Mærsk’s Gert in Danish waters. In 1997, the Danish Energy Agency proposed a unitized development to Norway’s Oil and Energy Ministry. However, a combination of small reserves, tumbling oil prices, and reservoir difficulties led the project to be shelved in 1998.

Talks resumed between the main parties last year, coinciding with Amerada’s new proposal. Its current base case is a subsea solution for the roughly 14 MMbbl in the Norwegian sector, which would be tied back either to BP’s Valhall complex on the Norwegian side, or to Amerada’s Arne Syd or Mærsk’s Harald in the Danish sector. Amerada claims production could begin by end-2003. The Danish Energy Agency has since written to the ministry in Oslo, urging a fresh approach to a joint development.

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