Shell takes Valaris jack-up rig for upcoming North Sea drilling ops

UK-headquartered energy giant Shell has hired a heavy-duty jack-up rig from Valaris, an offshore drilling contractor, for a two-well drilling campaign in 2024. The company also narrowed down the date for the start of this exploration program in the North Sea.

Valaris 123 jack-up rig; Source: Valaris

A confirmation of the rig contract with Valaris for the drilling of Shell’s Selene and Pensacola wells came from the oil major’s partner, Deltic Energy. A positive well investment decision for Selene in license P2437 was made in July 2022. At the start of 2023, Shell made a gas discovery at the Pensacola gas prospect in license P2252 in the Southern North Sea.

The spudding of the Selene exploration well and the Pensacola appraisal well will be undertaken using the Valaris 123 jack-up rig. The pair will be drilled as a two-well sequence, with the contract and mobilization slated to begin in the June-July 2024 period. As the duo will be drilled sequentially, Deltic believes that this creates the potential for operational efficiencies associated with being part of an extended program of wells.

Furthermore, the company sees the confirmation of the rig contract as “a significant step forward” and “a key milestone” in the preparatory work required to support the exploration well on the Selene gas prospect and the appraisal well on Pensacola, following last year’s discovery. As the geophysical site survey on Pensacola has now received permitting approval and the mobilization to the site has taken place, the survey is expected to last for approximately one month.

Graham Swindells, Chief Executive of Deltic Energy, commented: “Signing of the rig contract coupled with the firming up of the drilling schedule is another important step for Deltic as we move further down the runway towards the drilling of Selene and Pensacola. Confirmation that the JV has secured a high-quality rig, with Selene and Pensacola being drilled back to back, represents another key milestone as we get closer to drilling in what is shaping up to be a very active and exciting year for Deltic.”

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The Selene prospect is considered to be one of the largest unapprised structures in the Leman Sandstone fairway of the Southern Gas Basin and Shell’s partner estimates Selene to contain gross P50 prospective resources of 318 bcf of gas – P90 to P10 range of 132 to 581 bcf – with a geological chance of success of 70%. 

On the other hand, Pensacola, which is perceived to be the largest natural gas discovery in the North Sea in over a decade, is said to contain P50 estimated ultimate recovery of 302 BCF of gas, of which 90 BCF is net to Deltic. 

The 2019-built Valaris 123 Keppel FELS, ultra-enhanced super ‘A’ class jack-up rig comes with a maximum drilling depth of 40,000 ft and can accommodate 145 people. Valaris recently won a six-well contract with TAQA on the Porthos carbon capture and storage (CCS) program in the Dutch North Sea for the rig.

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The contract is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2024 and has a minimum duration of 170 days. The deal includes options for up to ten wells with an estimated total duration of 300 days. In addition, the rig secured a one-well contract with Ithaca Energy in the UK North Sea, which is due to commence in April 2024.