Shell UK Exploration and Production (Shell Expro), operator in the UK sector of the North Sea, says that first oil began to flow on Jan. 4 from the Penguin fields in blocks 211/13a, and 211/14 in the northern North Sea, 150 km northeast of the Shetland Islands, through the Brent System, which is 50 km south of the nearest Penguin field, to the Sullom Voe terminal.
Shell Expro achieved initial production 516 days after sanction by shareholders and the DTI. The company achieved first oil six months earlier than the date proposed in the field development plan.
Shell Expro is executing the project in two distinct phases. The first phase comprises the drilling and hook-up of four horizontal wells, one each in Penguin A and Penguin D, and two in Penguin C. The proposed second phase involves drilling five additional wells, one in Penguin A, two more in Penguin C, one in Penguin D, and one in Penguin E.
Although the first Penguin field was discovered in 1974, advances in subsea technology and greater well engineering efficiency have only now allowed development of the cluster.
"Only by using and developing state of the art technologies are we able to make this type of marginal field attractive. So, not only is Penguins important for us today, but it also gives us some confidence for the future of the UK continental shelf within the North Sea," said Mark Carne, asset director of Shell Expro.
Shell Expro used state-of-the-art technology for the development, including subsea completions tiedback through a single 16-in. diameter production pipeline to the Brent Charlie platform, which at 65 km is the longest subsea tieback in the North Sea.
The company encased the pipeline within a 22-in. insulated carrier pipe to maintain the oil and gas temperature and prevent the formation of wax or hydrates in the pipeline. The company laid the pipeline on the surface of the seabed and designed it to accommodate thermal expansion forces by moving laterally rather than being trenched and buried. They then laid an umbilical alongside for power and control, the longest single section of which was 52 km long.
The platform equipment includes a slug suppression system incorporating Shell Global Solutions' advanced control algorithms. Novel fishing-friendly wellhead protection structures, known as cocoons, have been installed on the first four subsea wells.
"First oil from the Penguin fields, discovered in the 70s but fallow until now, has been made possible by new technology and the longest ever UKCS subsea tieback," said Brian Wilson, energy minister. "Penguins will make an important contribution to UK oil and gas production and help the industry reach recovery targets for 2010."
The company expects the Penguins field cluster development to produce 50 MMbbl and 175 bcf gas over a nine-year field life. Peak rates are to be 40,000 b/d of oil and 70 MMcf/d of gas.