Even though the latest developments are tiny compared with the huge Buzzard oilfield, which is possibly the biggest find in the North Sea for 25 years, Wilson said they were important evidence that the province is far from exhausted. "The massive Buzzard discovery has shown that very large new finds in the North Sea are possible. But, in terms of employment and economic returns, it is equally important to have a wide range of smaller developments coming onstream and that is why this recent activity is so welcome," Wilson said in a statement.
Some of the fields are being developed by established operators, but Wilson also praised the enterprise of "small, innovative companies" using new technology to tap resources which in some cases have lain dormant for decades despite the fact they had been licensed.
The new fields include the start-up of the Halley oilfield operated by Talisman Energy Inc. in the central North Sea and the start-up of the Brigantine C and D fields operated by Shell in the southern North Sea. The Halley field, in blocks 30/11 and 30/12 comprises a single oil well producing to the Fulmar platform. The field, discovered two decades ago, has estimated reserves of 11 million barrels of oil equivalent, Talisman has said. The Brigantine C and D fields are operated by Shell in partnership with ExxonMobil, and gas from the fields are transported to Shell's Corvette platform. The Brigantine complex, also including the A and B fields, holds some 280 billion cubic feet (bcf) (7.928 billion cubic meters) of liquids-rich gas, Shell said.
Also on Monday, the Department of Trade and Industry announced the go-ahead for the Helvellyn gasfield, operated by ATP Oil and Gas Corp., in the southern North Sea. Helvellyn, situated mostly in block 47/10d, contains recoverable reserves of about 53 bcf of gas over a field life of about eight years. The field, which is expected to begin producing next year, was first licensed in 1964. Helvellyn is planned as a single well subsea development, tied back to the Amethyst field platform operated by BP.
The DTI said that test drilling by Dana Petroleum showed the presence of hydrocarbons in the Barbara prospect, while EnCana Corp. has discovered a mix of oil and gas in its Black Horse test well, situated approximately 99 miles northeast of Aberdeen.
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