Norwegian Exploration to Heat Up in the Fall

As of June 2004, 12 exploration wells have been spudded on the Norwegian Shelf and several exciting drilling activities are set to start this autumn. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) expects the exploration activities to comprise more than 20 wells by the end of the year.

Of the wells being drilled this autumn, the most promising are Hydro's well 6605/8-1 at Fles Nord, Chevron's well 6507/1-1 on the flank of the DÝnna terrace, and, not least, the three wells to be drilled in the Barents Sea towards the end of this year, Hydro's 7220/6-1 (PL225), Statoil's 7131/4-1 (PL233) and Statoil's 7227/11-1S (PL202).

Well 6605/8-1 at Fles Nord will test the so-called Stetind prospect in the Upper Cretaceous at approximately 4000 meters' depth. This is a high-risk prospect; however, if successful, it may open up for new interest for the deep area of the VÝring basin.

Well 6507/1-1 shall test a stratigraphic prospect on the same level west of Norne and down-flank of the Marulk discovery. "Marulk" was discovered by Hydro in the early 1990s, and Eni has since taken over as operator. If hydrocarbons are discovered in 6507/1-1, this would be highly interesting for further activities in this area.

The Barents Sea
Hydro will start drilling the well 7220/6-1 in the Barents Sea towards the end of November/beginning of December this year. The well will test a new play in Permian carbonates on Loppa high. The prospect is located in a shallow area, and it is expected that drilling can be completed in approximately one month.

According to plan, Statoil and production license 202 shall take over the exploration rig when Hydro concludes its drilling. Statoil will drill the well 7227/11-1 S to test a Triassic salt-related prospect in the North Cape basin. The well may require up to a month and a half to be completed.

The last well in the Barents Sea will, for now, be drilled in the very east on the Troms-Finnmark platform. Well 7131/4-1 will also be drilled by Statoil, and shall test several levels in the Jurassic and Triassic levels. These are also located in a relatively shallow area, and it is assumed that the well can be drilled in a little over a month.

All the wells in the Barents Sea are interesting, and may lead to greater interest in the northern areas. In the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea, a total of 61 wells have been drilled up to today. The three new ones that we can expect to be started in the latter half of 2004 may provide important information for some areas. However, the Barents Sea is large, and most of the open exploration areas in the North continue relatively unexplored.

"The NPD has noted that new and, in part, large discoveries are being made on the Russian side of the Barents Sea in plays not unlike those we find on the Norwegian side. If we compare the Barents Sea with the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, and the exploration activities that have taken place in the two latter, we can conclude that we have only just begun up North. A rise from 61 to 64 wells is nowhere near enough to uncover the potential of the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea," says Bente Nyland, the NPD's Exploration Director.

Anticipating many new discoveries
"Even though the results from the latest licensing rounds on the Norwegian Shelf have been described as disappointing and not satisfactory by a number of sources, the level of activity this year shows that the Shelf continues to be an attractive area for petroleum activities. We continue to make many discoveries. In addition, the potential for further discoveries in the immature areas of the Shelf are promising."

In connection with the 18th Licensing Round on the Norwegian Shelf, 16 companies have been offered participation in 16 new production licenses. The offer concerns the rights to a total of 46 blocks or parts of blocks.

The authorities have great faith that the 18th Licensing Round, in addition to TFO 2004 (deadline for applications: 1 October) will result in a further rise in activity, and contribute to strengthening the exploration of the Norwegian Shelf.
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