Ithaca planning further UK field developments

Ithaca Energy is targeting net production from its North Sea fields of 15,000 boe/d over the next few years, said Chief Exploration Officer Nick Muir at Offshore Europe this week.

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN -- Ithaca Energy is targeting net production from its North Sea fields of 15,000 boe/d over the next few years, said Chief Exploration Officer Nick Muir at Offshore Europe this week.

In March the company achieved first oil from Jacky in the Inner Moray Firth, its first operated development project. Jacky is producing through a new minimum facility wellhead platform linked by pipeline to the Beatrice Alpha processing facility, which Ithaca also operates.

Muir, who previously served Shell and has worked in the North Sea for the past 25 years, said production is expected to average around 5,000 boe/d net to Ithaca over the remainder of this year. Production efficiency is currently 96%, he added, following a very brief shutdown.

One of the main objectives for Ithaca on the mature Beatrice oilfield, formerly operated by Talisman Energy, is to maintain current production levels of around 2,200 b/d of oil. "This entails injecting enormous amounts of water - 120,000 b/d - into the ground and we have plans to up this to improve recovery," Muir explained. “We're also planning the rehabilitation of production wells on the crest of the structure via a combination of workovers and well interventions."

East of Beatrice, Ithaca is reviewing options to tie in the elongated Polly structure. This could be drilled either directly from the Beatrice Bravo platform, or it could be developed through the Jacky installation. "The Polly reservoir is similar to other Beatrice sandstone discoveries," says Muir, "but this will be a challenging development requiring a strong alliance with the service sector."

Farther east in the Outer Moray Firth, Ithaca also operates the Athena oil discovery, estimated to hold at least 24 MMbbl of gross recoverable reserves. Development planning was put on hold last year, due to falling oil prices and onerous service costs. However, Ithaca and its partners Dyas, EWE and Zeus may submit a new plan to the UK government towards year-end, which involve phased drilling of further production wells. Ithaca has already drilled three appraisal wells into Athena which will be ready to go when they have been completed for production.

The original idea was a subsea tieback to the Talisman-operated Claymore infrastructure 16 km (9.9 mi) to the east. Talisman's proposed modification costs made the scheme untenable, says Muir, leading the partners to devise an alternative solution based around an FPSO.

Muir says the partners are keeping their options open. "Bluewater's 25 year-old FPSO Uisge Gorm is still in a yard in Rotterdam waiting for a taker. We are also looking at smaller, purpose-built FPSOs." In either case, oil would be offloaded to shuttle tankers. But there is still a possibility of reaching a contractual breakthrough with Talisman to deploy Claymore for a fully subsea scheme.

Elsewhere, Ithaca is a partner to Maersk Oil (operator) in the 26 MMboe Stella gas and condensate discovery in a prolific area of the central North Sea. Here the plan is a subsea tieback to a nearby platform - either Shell operated Shearwater or Total operated Elgin/Franklin, both around 25 km (15.5 mi) distant - via two manifolded horizontal wells.

Stella's hydrocarbons reside in a Palaeocene Andrew reservoir but underlying this there are further reserves in the Cretaceous chalk strata.

Maersk plans a further appraisal well on Stella later this year – if successful, development should get under way in 2010. There are also nearby options for further tie-ins at a later stage, named Harrier and Hurricane.


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