Deepsea Stavanger rig; Source: Odfjell Drilling

North Sea yields more oil & gas, as Equinor makes new discovery

Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor has made a new oil and gas discovery near the Fram field in the North Sea off Norway, using an Odfjell Drilling-owned rig. 

Deepsea Stavanger rig; Source: Odfjell Drilling

Equinor has concluded the drilling of wells 35/11-26 S and 35/11-26 A at the Crino/Mulder prospect in production licence 090, where Equinor acts as the operator of the licence with an ownership interest of 45 per cent, while its partners, Vår Energi, Inpex Idemitsu Norge, and Neptune Energy Norge, hold the remaining 25, 15, and 15 per cent interest, respectively. These are the 21st and 22nd exploration wells in this licence, which was awarded in the 8th licensing round in 1984.

The Norwegian giant secured consent for exploration drilling in June 2023 for this prospect. The wells were drilled using Odfjell Drilling’s Deepsea Stavanger rig. The water depth at the site is 356 metres. The well was drilled 4 kilometres west of the Fram field and about 130 kilometres northwest of Bergen.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) revealed on Friday, 18 August 2023, that the primary exploration target for wildcat well 35/11-26 S was to prove petroleum in sandstone in the Heather Formation from the Late Jurassic and the Brent Group from the Middle Jurassic, as well as to investigate reservoir properties in the Cook Formation from the Early Jurassic. The secondary exploration target was to collect reservoir data in the Lista Formation from the Palaeocene.

Furthermore, the well 35/11-26 S encountered a 7-metre gas column and a 26-metre oil column in the Heather Formation, in sandstone layers totalling 33 metres with moderate to good reservoir quality. The oil/water contact was not encountered. The Brent Group and the Cook Formation were water-filled with moderate to good reservoir quality. The secondary exploration target in the Lista Formation was not encountered.

On the other hand, the well 35/11-26 A encountered sandstones of moderate to good reservoir quality in the Heather Formation and the reservoir was aquiferous. In addition, oil and gas were also proven in shallower intra-Heather sandstones in both wells.

According to the NPD, the preliminary estimates place the size of the discovery between 1.5 and 5.5 million Sm3 of recoverable oil equivalent and the licensees will now assess the discovery in relation to existing infrastructure in the Fram area, along with other discoveries in the vicinity.

While the wells were not formation-tested, extensive data acquisition and sampling have been conducted. The well 35/11-26 S was drilled to a vertical depth of 3,409 metres and a measured depth of 3,770 metres below sea level and was terminated in the Amundsen Formation from the Early Jurassic.

Moreover, the well 35/11-26 A was drilled to a vertical depth of 3,000 metres and a measured depth of 3,421 metres below sea level and was terminated in the Heather Formation from the Late Jurassic. The wells have been permanently plugged and abandoned.

The Deepsea Stavanger rig will now drill a wildcat well 30/11-15 in production licence 035 in the North Sea, where Equinor also acts as the operator.

Discovery deemed to be commercially viable

While welcoming the announcement about the oil and gas discovery near the Fram field, Neptune Energy confirmed that the preliminary estimates of the size of the discovery were about 9 – 35 million barrels of oil equivalent (mboe). The company underscored that the licensees consider the discovery to be commercially viable and will consider the potential tie-in to other recent discoveries in the area, via existing infrastructure.

Odin Estensen, Neptune Energy’s Managing Director in Norway and the UK, commented: “We congratulate Equinor for their safe and successful drilling operation, which again proves the potential in the highly prolific Fram area. Its close proximity to existing infrastructure provides potential opportunities for a low-emission, cost-efficient development.”

Equinor claims that there are eight previous discoveries in this area. These are Echino South, Swisher, Røver North, Blasto, Toppand, Kveikje, Røver South, and Heisenberg.

Geir Sørtveit, Equinor’s senior vice president for Exploration & Production West, remarked: “It is positive that we can still make such discoveries in an area with a good oil and gas infrastructure, allowing the discoveries to be developed at low costs and with low CO2 emissions.”

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