Norway Sees Increased Exploration Activity in 2007

Norwegian Continental Shelf
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At the end of November, 31 exploration wells had been spudded on the Norwegian shelf. In comparison, only 26 exploration wells were spudded in all of 2006. The explanation for this increase lies in better access to exploration rigs.

Of the 31 spudded exploration wells, 20 are wildcat wells and 11 are appraisal wells. Twelve new discoveries have been made; one in the Barents Sea, three in the Norwegian Sea and eight in the North Sea. All of the discoveries in the North Sea are in the Sleipner area, with the exception of the 35/11-15 S discovery, which is located just south of the Fram field in the northern part of the North Sea. Exploration activity has picked up in recent months. Activities are currently underway in seven exploration wells (one in the Barents Sea, one in the Norwegian Sea and five in the North Sea).

The NPD expects this higher level of exploration activity to continue into the future, mainly due to the fact that access to rigs for the Norwegian shelf is starting to improve.

In the short term, however, there is no available rig capacity. Most of the rigs on the Norwegian shelf are under contract through 2009, but construction of new rigs will improve rig access considerably compared with recent years.

Eight newly-built rigs are contracted for drilling on the Norwegian shelf. The plan calls for the first of these rigs to arrive on the shelf in the spring of 2008. A jack-up rig will also be coming from the United Kingdom. With just one exception, all of the rigs that come to the Norwegian shelf from 2008 and onward will operate under long-term contracts. In addition to this, more new rigs could come as a consequence of new contract awards.

The players have succeeded in establishing cooperation agreements across production licenses (rig pool schemes), which has made it possible to secure long-term contracts. The new companies on the shelf have also been responsible for bringing in more new rigs by joining together to build a portfolio of wells to be drilled, which means that they have sufficient activity to secure a rig.

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