Photo: Maersk Resilient jack-up rig; Source: Maersk Drilling

Shell adds high-impact gas prospect in North Sea to Maersk rig’s backlog

UK-headquartered energy giant Shell has hired a jack-up rig, owned by Maersk Drilling, to drill a gas prospect in the North Sea, which is anticipated to provide the UK with additional gas sources in the midst of the current geopolitical crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which has led to global energy security concerns.

Maersk Drilling revealed on Wednesday that it has secured a contract from Shell for the provision of the Maersk Resilient harsh-environment jack-up rig for the drilling of the Pensacola well in the UK sector of the North Sea.

According to the offshore drilling contractor, this contract is expected to start in the second half of 2022, in direct continuation of the rig’s previous work scope with Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), with an estimated duration of approximately two months.

Commenting on the award, Morten Kelstrup, COO of Maersk Drilling, remarked: “We’re delighted to announce this contract which firms up Maersk Resilient’s drilling programme for most of 2022 and will allow the Resilient team to build even further on the excellent collaboration that was established with NAM and the Shell organisation during last year’s campaign at Galleon.”

The Gusto-engineered MSC CJ 50 high-efficiency jack-up rig Maersk Resilient was delivered in 2008 and is currently operating for NAM in the Dutch sector of the North Sea.

In a separate statement, Deltic Energy, Shell’s joint venture partner in licence P2252, which contains the Pensacola prospect, confirmed that a rig contract has been signed for the drilling of the Pensacola exploration well. Shell holds a 70 per cent operated interest in the licence containing this gas prospect, while Deltic has the remaining 30 per cent.

Based on Deltic’s statement, Pensacola will be drilled using the Maersk Resilient jack-up rig, and the firm expects the use of this rig to bring “significant operational efficiencies that are naturally associated with being part of an extended programme of wells.”

As reported in April, the drilling of Pensacola remains scheduled to kick off in the third quarter of 2022 – in the second half of September – with seabed operations for placing of the rig due to start towards the end of July.

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Graham Swindells, Chief Executive of Deltic Energy, stated: “The signing of the rig contract coupled with the firming up of the drilling schedule is exciting news for Deltic as we move further down the runway towards the drilling of the Pensacola gas prospect.

“Pensacola is an increasingly valuable asset in the current energy environment and confirmation that the JV has now secured a high-quality drilling rig with an experienced team for the well is another key milestone as our planning continues to progress towards the drilling of this high-impact prospect.” 

Deltic further explained that Pensacola is a Zechstein Reef prospect located to the northwest of the Breagh gas field in the Southern North Sea. This prospect is estimated to contain gross P50 prospective resources of 309 BCF, with a 55 per cent geological chance of success, which will rank Pensacola as one of the highest impact exploration targets to be drilled in the gas basin in recent years.”

The company underlined that the Pensacola well is also being “highly anticipated by the industry for its potential to unlock a significant new source of gas” to the UK from the Zechstein Reef play, which has been successfully produced in NW Europe from Poland to The Netherlands.

In addition, Deltic believes that this prospect has the potential to “demonstrate that the UK still has a significant level of previously unrecognised exploration upside which can deliver cost-competitive natural gas to the UK-based businesses and homes and support the UK’s net-zero targets.”