Dutch exploration, development continue to gain momentum

Computer-generated image of Elf's L/4-PN gas production platform, currently under construction by HSM in Gouda. [32,775 bytes] At the beginning of 1998, total proven Dutch gas reserves were estimated at 1.7 tcm - the highest in Europe. Last year, the volume of reserves increased by 17 bcm as a result of new finds, revaluation of previously proven fields and (net) production. Recoverable natural gas volumes awaiting discovery offshore could be between 121-247 bcm, according to the

Aug 1st, 1998

Neil Potter
Contributing Editor
At the beginning of 1998, total proven Dutch gas reserves were estimated at 1.7 tcm - the highest in Europe. Last year, the volume of reserves increased by 17 bcm as a result of new finds, revaluation of previously proven fields and (net) production.

Recoverable natural gas volumes awaiting discovery offshore could be between 121-247 bcm, according to the Netherlands Institute of Applied Geoscience. Remaining proven oil reserves offshore are put at 94.5 million bbl.

The total area of the Dutch continental shelf is just over 57,000 sq km. Around half this area has been licensed. Last year, 21 exploration wells were drilled offshore, with NAM most active (seven wells) followed by Elf with five, Occidental four, Wintershall two, and one each from Clyde, RWE-DEA and Amoco. Hydro carbons were discovered in eight wells - seven gas and one oil.

Holland's 9th round for hydrocarbon exploration licenses has been open since April 1 1995. So far 24 licenses have been issued by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the ensuing period, headed by NAM with nine, Elf with five, and Wintershall with four.

NAM's latest awards, for blocks A10, A11 and A14, came in late June. These are in the northernmost part of the shelf close to an area where NAM may develop some smaller fields.

Three competitive bids have been made for block P10, close to the UK/Dutch median line, but an award has not yet been made. There is a small oil and gas discovery in the adjacent P-11b block operated by Amoco.

Exploration drilling has been relatively buoyant, according to Arthur Andersen, yielding 10 new spuds in the first half of this year compared with eight for the corresponding period in 1997. Late June, Clyde discovered gas in its exploration well Q/4-8, drilled by the jackup Noble Lynda Bossler 19 km from Clyde's Q/8 infrastructure. The well tested at 27 MMcf/d. Clyde plans to submit an application for a production license later this year with the aim of achieving a production start by end-1999.

One of the most contentious areas for exploration drilling is the Waddenzee area - a long-running battleground between environ mentalists, the state and the operators. These mudflats and saltwater marshes off northern Holland are thought to contain up to 130 bcm of gas.

This year Greenpeace, protesting against NAM's plans to explore the Waddenzee, occupied a NAM monopile for seven days. A court ordered it to pay DFl 350,000 in damages, but Greenpeace is currently appealing the decision.

Innumerable other legal moves resulted in a permit to drill the first well in the coastal area in 1996 being suspended. NAM had hoped to start drilling in the Waddenzee later this year, but that program depends on the judgement handed down in a current court case, and whether there will be an appeal to the Council of State. The odds are that drilling will not now start until next year, when presumably there will be further protests.

Development activity

This year NAM will complete its L/9 development with what Wood Mackenzie says is the highest treatment capacity platform in The Netherlands at 590 MMcf/d. Initially it will exploit around 800 bcf of gas. The platform will also provide capacity for further developments in the L and M quadrants. But the project, with a throughput capacity of 16 MMcf/d, appears to have slipped, with first gas now unlikely before end-1998. The L/9 complex is designed for remote operation from Den Helder.

Grootint has a letter of intent from Wintershall for an EPIC contract for the D/15-FA platform to produce from the D/15 and D/12 gas reserves, estimated at 430 bcf from a Carboniferous reservoir. This will be a six-leg, six-pile structure with a 1,700 ton jacket and 2,300 ton topsides. Heerema will fabricate and then install the jacket early next year, with first gas slated for April 1999. Field life is put at 20-25 years. A 140 km, 36-in. pipeline will be laid from the platform to the Noordgastransport (NGT) trunkline at the L/10 platform.

Elf Petroland also continues to be active. In June it awarded HSM a contract to design and build the L/4-PN gas production platform. This four-pile jacket and topsides, weighing 1,400 tons, will be installed by Seaway Heavy Lifting next July in 41 meters of water, with capacity for 3 MMcm/d. Gas will be piped to shore through existing infrastructure. Also, two 11.5 km flexible flowlines will be laid to L/4A late August by Coflexip Stena Offshore, with first production due in October.

Further in the future, German company RWE-DEA plans to develop its small Hanz oilfield in block F/2, discovered in 1996 in 42 meters of water and flowing 9,700 b/d of 38° API oil on test. The field, with reserves estimated at anything from 20-50 million bbl, lies close to NAM's F/3 oil production platform, from where oil is exported via shuttle tanker. If a tieback proves not feasible dedicated platform with storage facilities might be considered.

Copyright 1998 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

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