Norway employs West Hercules rig to find dry well for CO2 storage

Equinor, Shell, and Total have begun drilling the 31/5-7 Eos wildcat well to investigate whether the reservoir in the deep Johansen Formation was suitable for storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) as part of the Northern Lights project.

West Hercules rig; Photo: Seadrill

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said on Thursday that this would be the first exploration well drilled where the objective was not to find oil or gas.

The well is being drilled south of the Troll field in the North Sea using Seadrill’s West Hercules rig. The Johansen Formation is situated at a depth of around 2,700 meters in the relevant area.

According to the NPD, this will be the first well to be drilled in exploitation license 001, and the objective of the well is to prove sandstone and the storage potential for CO2 in the Cook and Johansen geological formations.

If the well indicates good reservoir properties, and a decision is subsequently made to use the formations for CO2 storage, the first CO2 injector will be drilled as a sidetrack from the wildcat well.

NPD assistant director exploration Wenche Tjelta Johansen said: “In Norway, we have lots of experience and good expertise when it comes to safe storage of CO2 under the seabed.”

Since 1996, CO2 has been removed from the Sleipner Vest gas and injected in the Utsira Formation. One million tonnes of CO2 is stored subsurface every year.

Since 2007, 700,000 tonnes of CO2 per year have also been stored at the Snøhvit field. It is separated from the gas in the processing facility on Melkøya before it is sent by pipeline down into a reservoir located around 140 kilometers from land.

It is worth noting that estimates show that, in theory, the reservoir volume on the Norwegian shelf could accommodate more than 80 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to 1,000 years of Norwegian CO2 emissions at the current level.

The Northern Lights drilling is part of the Norwegian full-scale project for capture, transport, and storage of CO2.

This project includes the capture of CO2 from two industrial firms in Eastern Norway, as well as transport of liquid CO2 to a terminal in Western Norway. From there, the liquid CO2 will be transported via pipeline and pumped into a reservoir at a depth of nearly 3,000 meters under the North Sea, where it will be permanently stored.

Image: Equinor

To remind, the authorities gave Equinor and its partners an exploitation license for storage of CO2 in January this year. According to the plan, Northern Lights will submit a plan for development and operation in the spring.

If the development plan gets a green light, Northern Lights has made a commitment to store 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 for the authorities, every year for 25 years.

Also, Equinor received consent from the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) to drill an exploration well for CO₂ verification in the North Sea using the West Hercules rig in late September.

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