Darling Approves 350th North Sea Field

The continued central role of the North Sea in meeting the UK's oil and gas needs was underlined today as Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling announced approval for the 350th offshore field in its 40 year history.

The three fields confirmed today - Caravel, Shamrock and Kelvin - will be operated by Shell (in partnership with ExxonMobil) and ConocoPhillips.

While underlining the commitment to the industry, he will also set out the opportunity for the North Sea to lead the world in carbon capture and storage.

Speaking to the 6th Annual Royal Bank of Scotland Conference in Aberdeen, he said:

"North Sea production remains critical to the UK's energy needs. The approval I'm announcing today for new fields takes the total number of offshore oil and gas developments in the North Sea's 40 years history to 350. The industry remains strong, is valued and is important to us in ensuring secure supplies of oil and gas.

"We're seeing record interest in licensing rounds, an influx of new companies alongside long established players, a steady stream of developments put on the table and overall annual investment of around £10 billion.

"But at the same time the industry knows it is a maturing one. With that maturity comes opportunity. Last week I announced a competition to build the world's first carbon capture and storage plant in the UK. The North Sea industry with its skills, ingenuity and the capacity of depleted fields has the opportunity to make a compelling case as a world leader in this new technology.

"In developing and harnessing the knowledge and technology to develop oil and gas in a hostile offshore environment, the North Sea industry has blazed a trail for the world. With carbon capture and storage a new generation of North Sea pioneers has the opportunity to lead the world again."

Mr. Darling is the first Secretary of State to chair the government/industry group PILOT and will chair the next meeting in April.

Caravel field

Caravel is located in the Southern North Sea and was discovered in 2002. The field will be developed through two production wells and a four-slot minimum facility linked to existing Shell operated infrastructure. Production will be co-mingled with Brigantine and Corvette and transported to the Shell onshore gas plant at Bacton. Additional appraisal potential lies in two undrilled fault blocks to the south of the field. First production is currently scheduled for December 2007. The field is operated by Shell, with ExxonMobil as co-licensee.

Shamrock field

Also Shell-operated, the nearby Shamrock field will be developed in a similar way and tied into the Caravel export pipeline.

Kelvin field

Discovered in 2005, the Kelvin field is operated by ConocoPhillips. Other licensees are GDF Britain Ltd and Tullow Oil UK Ltd.

Kelvin will be developed through a single development well drilled through a 2-slot normally unmanned minimum facilities wellhead platform and tied-back to the ConocoPhillips-operated Murdoch field facilities. From Murdoch, production from Kelvin will be transported via existing facilities to the Theddlethorpe Gas Terminal for entry into the UK National Transmission System. First production is currently scheduled for December 2007.

In total the three fields should add an extra 340 billion cubic feet of gas to overall UK reserves.