Exploratory drilling on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) has risen in recent years, but Norwegian oil production has continued to decline as discoveries being made are smaller in size and not enough to offset the natural decline of Norway's oil fields. However, natural gas production has climbed in recent years as more exploration is conducted in areas with large gas reserves.
During the first half of 2010, 25 exploration wells were drilled on the NCS, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) reports, down from 33 exploration wells drilled in the first half of 2009. Nineteen of the 25 wells drilled during the first six months of this year are wildcat wells, or new prospects, and six are appraisal wells for delineation of earlier discoveries. Nine discoveries were made during the first half of 2010, including five in the North Sea and four in the Norwegian Sea.
NPD has forecast 40 to 50 exploration wells this year; however, the pace of drilling activity has slowed due in part to Statoil's reduction in exploration activity versus 2009. Last year, 65 wells were spud offshore Norway, including 44 wildcat wells and 21 appraisal wells, setting a new record for exploratory drilling, NPD reported. This drilling activity resulted in a record 28 discoveries being made.
According to RigLogix, 25 out of the 26 rigs working offshore Norway are currently drilling. All rigs except one, Aker Drilling semisubmersible Aker Barents, are operating in less than 4,000 feet of water. Shell has Aker Barents under contract, and used the rig to drill its recent Gro discovery well. Shell will used Aker Barents to drill the Dalsnuten prospect in Production License 392 in 4,442 feet (1,354 m) of water. Dalsnuten is in the same area as Gro.
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