Exploration Offshore Faroe Islands Could Prove Significant

Statoil is ready to start the first ever exploration well off the Faroe Islands this month rather than in July, since the Sovereign Explorer is completing its well on Sarsfield ahead of schedule.

A spokesman for project partner Enterprise Oil said yesterday that, for this reason, Statoil should be able to get moving early with the historic project which, if successful, will have a major impact on the future course of exploration in the Eastern Atlantic.

Until recently, it was close as to whether BP or Statoil would be first to drill in Faroese waters. However, BP is not scheduled to start until late summer, using Smedvig’s drillship, West Navion, which will initially drill one well and perhaps a second later.

Exploration offshore the Faroes Islands will be difficult due to immense water depths, strong currents and an unpredictable weather system. The geology will also be tough to deal with, though surveys of the target area point to several promising targets.

It is difficult to determine what the real potential of the Faroese sector is and analysts have declined to estimate reserves which could range from a few hundred to billions of barrels worth of oil and gas.

Although the first Faroese oil and gas licensing round attracted a lot of interest, it was tempered by the fact that few commercial finds have been made in UK "west of Shetland" waters. Only the Foinaven and Schiehallion heavy oilfields have been developed. Clair, which was located more than 20 years ago, is just now being opened. However, several finds with potential are waiting in the wings, including a gas discovery made last year by Enterprise Oil on the Benebecula prospect.