A year most notable for its record high and low crude prices driving year-round market tension, not to mention oil majors' annual build-up to third quarter, bank-busting profits, 2008 should also go on record for the petroleum industry's significant oil and gas finds dotting the globe. Some of these discoveries have pinpointed specific regions as potential investments for future exploration ventures, while others further the commercial viability of already existing fields' values and reserve estimates.
One particular region that has continued to dig deeper in 2008 and has hit the hydrocarbon jackpot for the year is located in the world's southern hemisphere and features unconventional conditions for recovering hydrocarbons. Specifically, Brazil is taking the reigns for unlocking vast amounts of oil and gas below layers of salt, rock and sand, and several of the most memorable finds are located in extreme water depths in the country's subsalt basins.
As a region, Latin America boasts seven of the largest oil-and-gas discoveries worldwide for 2008, according to Isabel Ordonez of Dow Jones Newswires. Among the largest discoveries, reports Ordonez, are three gigantic fields in the Santos basin offshore Brazil. If Brazil, home to energy giant, state-run Petrobras, develops its ultra-deepwater finds, the country may very well be catapulted into the top tier of superpower producers. Already, Petrobras has moved up in the ranks as one of the world's forerunners in the oil and gas industry, barreling out production rates of more than 2 million bopd.
Following is a list of significant worldwide finds of 2008 that span the globe from the deepwater Gulf of Mexico to Austral-Asia.
Brazil's New Frontier: Pre-Salt, Ultra-Deepwater Oil Finds
Location: Brazil's Santos Basin, South America
Discovery: 120 meters of natural gas and light oil
In the first month of 2008, Petrobras made a discovery at the Jupiter pioneer well in the ultra-deepwaters of Brazil's Santos Basin. The well encountered an initial pay of 120 meters of natural gas and light oil reserves. Drilled to a total depth of 5,773 meters by Diamond Offshore's Ocean Clipper drillship, the well is located in Block BM-S-24 in water depths of 2,187 meters. The find was confirmed and filed with the ANP on Sept. 25.
Location: Brazil's Campos Basin, South America
Discovery: 49 meters net pay
Capitalizing on offshore Brazil's innovative pre-salt opportunities, Anadarko reported a discovery on Sept. 30 at the Wahoo prospect situated in the Campos Basin. The well, drilled by Transocean's Deepwater Millennium drillship, is located on block BM-C-30 in approximately 1,417 meters of water and 40 kilometers southeast from Petrobras' vast Jubarte field that recently came on stream. Anadarko's Wahoo find indicated at least 49 meters of net pay with characteristics similar to Jubarte.
Digging to Greater Depths: GOM Deepwater Oil Finds
Location: Mississippi Canyon Block 771, GOM
Discovery: 152 meters of hydrocarbon-bearing sands
On Apr. 3, BP America noted that it struck oil at its Kodiak well in the Gulf of Mexico's Mississippi Canyon Block 771. Located in 1,500 meters of water, the well was drilled by Transocean's Deepwater Horizon semisub to a total depth of 9,494 meters and encountered 152 meters of hydrocarbon-bearing sands. Located in the vicinity of BP's 2003 Tubular Bells discovery, the field will undergo further appraisal to determine its size and scope.
Location: Mississippi Canyon Block 948, GOM
Discovery: 168 meters of hydrocarbon-bearing sands
Furthering the success of its deepwater drilling campaign in the Gulf of Mexico with its third discovery, BP hit an oil pocket in October at its Freedom/Gunflint prospect. Located in Mississippi Canyon Block 948 in 1,860 meters of water, the well was drilled by the Deepwater Horizon semisub to a total depth of 8,927 meters. Encountering an initial 168 meters of hydrocarbon-bearing sands, Freedom will be delineated with additional appraisal wells.
BP believes Freedom may straddle both Mississippi Canyon Blocks 948 and 992, the latter of which is operated by BHP Billiton with BP serving as partner.
Global Hydrocarbon Hunt
5. Tindalo & Yakal: Twin Discoveries
Location: Service Contract 54, Offshore Philippines
Discovery: Combined pay of 197 meters
On Sept. 24, Nido announced that it discovered oil at its Yakal-1 wellbore offshore the Philippines in SC54. The well encountered an oil column confirmed to a minimum of 78 meters high. Located in the Northwest Palawan Basin and drilled by the WilBoss jackup rig, Yakal was the first step in realizing the company's commercial strategy in the SC54 area where the company has identified 20 additional prospects. Yakal is also the first oil discovery documented in the Philippines in the last 14 years.
Right on the heels of the Yakal discovery, Nido intersected an oil accumulation that was logged and confirmed at 119 meters during its October operations at the Tindalo prospect. Located 5.5 kilometers northeast of Yakal on SC54, Tindalo-1, also drilled by the WilBoss, complements the Yakal find for a total pay-off of nearly 200 meters.
6. Sangos & Ngoma
Location: Angola, West Africa
Discovery: Combined oil pay of 127 meters
In May, Eni and partner Sonangol announced a significant oil discovery in Block 15/06 offshore Angola, a hotbed of deepwater oil and gas exploration. The Sangos-1 well, drilled at a water depth of 1,349 meters to a total depth of 3,343 meters, indicated an oil mineralization column of 127 meters. During production tests, the well yielded excellent quality oil (29 degrees API).
An additional find was made near Sangos-1 in October. The Ngoma-1 well, drilled in 1,421 meters of water to a total depth of 3,383 meters, also encountered an oil column of 127 meters, thus confirming the high mineral potential of deepwater Block 15/06.
Both the Sangos and Ngoma wells were drilled by Transocean's M G Hulme Jr. semisub.
Location: Block 34/3, Norwegian North Sea
Discovery: Tested at average rate of 7,500 b/d
Situated in the Norwegian North Sea, the Jordbaer field is located in BG-operated Production License 373S. Jordbaer's first exploration well, 34/3-1S, was spudded by the Bredford Dolphin semisub in April, and an oil discovery was documented in July. Located in a water depth of 400 meters, the discovery well was drilled to a TVD of 4,057 meters and tested at an average rate of approximately 7,500 barrels per day.
The Jordbaer prospect consists of two main segments, Jordbaer Central and East, and will be further delineated with more appraisal wells.
Eye Spy: Offshore Global Gas Finds
Location: UK Central North Sea
Discovery: Test flowed at average rate of 575 Mcm/d
In June, North Sea operator Oilexco unlocked its second major discovery in the past year at its Moth prospect, located in the UK Central North Sea on Block 23/21. The 23/21-6z discovery well was drilled using the Ocean Guardian semisub to a total depth of 4,455 meters and intersected dual-zone reservoirs.
Through a 36/64-inch choke, the well test flowed gas at an average rate of 575Mcm/d; however, production data indicates that the Moth well could flow up to 1.25 MMcf/d.
Location: Halten Bank, Norwegian North Sea
Discovery: Initial estimates indicate 1.5 Bcm of recoverable gas
Adding to the many finds dotting the Norwegian Sea, the Natalia discovery was uncorked by operator StatoilHydro using the West Alpha semisub. Located on the Halten Bank nearby StatoilHydro's Asgard field, the wildcat well was drilled to a total depth of 3,040 meters and encountered gas in the Middle Jurassic reservoir. Preliminary calculations indicate that Natalia could contain as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of recoverable gas.
The Natalia find proves that the field could be a potential pay-off for StatoilHydro if the project is developed and tied into existing facilities at Asgard, the largest field development project on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
Three's a Charm
10. Nimblefoot, Glencoe and Briseis
Location: WA-390-P Permit, Australia's Northwest Shelf
Discovery: Combined 102 meters of net gas pay
The first of four exploration wells drilled on the WA-390-P Permit offshore Australia by Hess, Glencoe-1 encountered 28 meters of net gas pay in June. The discovery well was drilled by the Jack Bates semisub in a water depth of 1,121 meters
The following month, Hess announced an additional discovery at its second exploration well, Briseis-1, in the company's 780,000-acre permit. Nearly doubling the initial pay at Glencoe and located 14 kilometers east of the find, Breseis-1 encountered 46 meters of net gas pay as it was drilled in a water depth of 1,118 meters.
Encouraged by the results, Hess moved on to drill its third exploration well, Nimblefoot-1, approximately 25 kilometers southwest of the Briseis find. On Sept. 4, Hess reported a discovery at Nimblefoot when this third successful well encountered 28 meters of net gas pay. Drilled in a water depth of 1,115 meters, Nimblefoot will most likely be developed with Hess' other two finds reported during the summer.
Considering the triple pay of 102 meters, the WA-390-P Permit is a commercially viable investment for future development.
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