Norsk Hydro Starts Drilling at Nucula Prospect in the Barents Sea

The semisubmersible 'Polar Pioneer' started drilling on the Nucula prospect in the Barents Sea today. The well is to be drilled 45 kilometers north of the North Cape, and drilling is expected to take around 40 days.

Hammerfest will be used as the base for both helicopter transportation and the provision of supplies to the exploration rig.

Production license 393 was awarded during the 19th licensing round in March 2006, and less than a year later Hydro has commenced wildcat drilling on the license.

"We are delighted that we have managed to drill this well so quickly following the license award. This emphasizes Hydro's intention to invest in the Barents Sea," says head of Exploration, Tore Lilloe-Olsen.

"We are also extremely proud of the environmental profile that has been established for this drilling operation. The quality of this operation is top class, both in terms of planned discharge to the sea and preparedness," Lilloe-Olsen concludes.

This exploration well must meet strict requirements, both with regard to discharge and preparedness. The only permitted discharge to the sea is during drilling of the uppermost part of the well (the top hole), when discharge is predominantly composed of a mixture of cooking salt and fresh water.

Hydro has also planned extensive oil-spill preparedness. Several of the oil protection systems provided by the Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies (NOFO) will be in the area during the drilling, and an agreement has been entered into with 17 local fishing vessels, with 24-hour response time.

In addition, both a helicopter and a monitoring aircraft are available to assist in any potential operation. In December, Hydro held a course and a practical exercise in Honningsvag for all those who are intended to play a role during a possible oil-spill protection operation in connection with the exploratory drilling.

Participants in the Nucula License are Norsk Hydro as operator with 30%; Eni with 30%; BG with 20% and Petoro with 20%.

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