Statoil Says Snohvit Drilling Underway

The first well on Statoil's Snohvit development in the Barents Sea is under way from Transocean's Polar Pioneer, which is due to complete this initial 10-hole drilling phase by spring 2006.

On station since December 7th, the rig has about 100 crew in activity at any one time. Drilling has progressed without unintentional discharges or serious incidents.

"We're down to the reservoir and taking cores about 2,750 meters down," explains drilling and well manager Thor Bensvik. "The total depth is due to reach 2,900 meters."

Designated F-2H, this first well will be used to inject carbon dioxide back below ground during the production phase.

Some 700,000 tons of this greenhouse gas is due to be separated from the wellstream every year and injected into a separate formation to avoid releasing it to the air.

That represents a major environmental measure, which will release far less of the carbon dioxide produced from the field than would otherwise be the case.

Polar Pioneer is designed to work in Arctic conditions and to meet strict environmental standards, not least in relation to the important fishing industry in the Barents Sea.

Water-based mud with the least environmentally harmful chemicals is being used to drill the Snøhvit wells. And the rig crew are specially trained to comply with strict environmental standards.

"We're putting great emphasis on good planning of the work, and have the natural environment on the agenda every single day," says Mr. Bensvik.

The next well is due to be spudded in early February, and will be one of nine producers covered by the first drilling phase.

A total of 20 production wells plus the carbon dioxide injector are due to be drilled in three phases, with the second and third of these scheduled for 2011 and 2014 respectively.