From the continental margin to play peripheries – the APA 2020 highlightsHenning Westerkamp via Pixabay

From the continental margin to play peripheries – the APA 2020 highlights

Following the awards of the 2020 APA round yesterday, we had a look at some of the more frontier licences and made some inferences on the plays being chased.

Yesterday, the results of the 2020 APA (Awards in Predefined Areas) Round were announced. 30 different companies received offers of ownership interests into a total of 61 production licences. Most awards are in areas close to existing fields and infrastructure and have therefore got an important infrastructure-led exploration (ILX) element. These licences are also often fairly limited in size, given the existing production licences in the same area.

In this article, we will focus on the more frontier awards and what the expected reservoir targets are.  

Barents Sea

The industry has not shown a great appetite for further exploration in the Barents Sea. This is despite the fact that the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate believes that most of the undiscovered resources on the Norwegian shelf are in this sea area (Gjemt, men ikke glemt, Barentshavet – en gåte). As a comparison, in 2019 14 production licences were awarded in the Barents Sea in the framework of the 2018 APA round.

Nevertheless, the NPD assumes that most of the undiscovered resources on the Norwegian shelf (6.9 billion barrels) are to be found in the Barents Sea, predominantly in areas that have been little explored.

Only three licenses were awarded this year, all of them operated by Vår Energy: two east and southeast of the Goliat field in the mature Hammerfest basin (PL1131), and one where the Tromsøbassenget, Senjaryggen, Veslemøyhøyden and Sørvestnaget basins meet (PL1132). While the two licences in the Hammerfest basin classify as near-field exploration, the licence in the Barents Sea West is typically frontier exploration.

In her presentation of the Shelf Year 2020 last week, Petroleum Director Ingrid Sølvberg highlighted the development plans for Goliat West as an example of the phasing in of existing infrastructure having also reached the Barents Sea.

PL1132 is in an area where prospective Eocene sands have been mapped by the NPD. We checked with TGS, who also believe that prospectivity in the area mainly lies in the Cenozoic succession.

Norwegian Sea

Fat Canyon equivalents

Starting in the south of the area, Ineos has been awarded an interesting licence (PL1111) straddling the Frøya High and the Rås Basin, east of the Ormen Lange field. This area must have been selected with the idea in mind that should the Fat Canyon exploration well planned for the area south of the Fenja field be successful, other analogues in terms of structural setting can be chased in P1111.

Quite frontier is also the licence awarded to Shell as operator (PL1112) in the southwest of Quadrant 6406. This area, representing the transition between the Rås Basin and the Sklinna Ridge, has probably been earmarked for having prospective sands in the Lower and Upper Cretaceous in the west, as well as the potential for classic Middle to Lower Jurassic reservoirs in the east (Sklinna Ridge, see well 6406/8-1).

Toutatis sparked some interest

In the northeast of the Norwegian Sea, two large licences (PL1126 and 1127) have been awarded in the area just west of where Wintershall Dea drilled the Toutatis well (6611/1-1) in 2019. This well was classified as a technical discovery in Lower Jurassic sandstones, but despite the sub-commercial volumes the fact that a working petroleum system was proven has probably triggered interest in the area that was closed for exploration for 30 years.

Equinor is the operator of both adjacent licences, which show an unusual jagged boundary that lines up with the boundary between the Traena Basin in the west and the Nordland Ridge/Grønøy High in the east. It probably represents differences in exploration strategies defined by the licence partners, as Total and DNO are partners in the “basinward” PL1127 licence where Wintershall Dea and Lundin Energy probably intend to further explore Toutatis equivalents.

Continental shelf break

Potentially the most frontier licence awarded this round is PL1129, to Wintershall Dea, Inpex and Lundin Energy. Not only is this area far away from infrastructure and offset well data, it also straddles the boundary between the oceanic and continental crust at the Vøring Marginal High. It is therefore interesting to find out what the drilling targets in this licence will be.


North Sea

Starting in the northern North Sea, a large licence (PL1101) was awarded to OMV, Ineos and ONE-Dyas. The licence covers the so-called Rungne Basin, which forms part of the axial part of the Viking Graben. For that reason, the classic Brent reservoirs are very deeply buried and have not been drilled at all, apart from well 30/4-1 that did find water bearing Brent sandstones at a depth of more than 5000 m. It seems more likely that OMV and partners will look at Eocene prospects in the area, given the much shallower occurrence and possibly inspired by success in the injectite play further south.

Stord Basin back in the game

With the award of PL1099, Aker BP, Lotos and Lundin Energy are going to have another look at the Stord Basin and its western margin. Few wells have been drilled in the newly licensed area, but looking at the two that have (26/4-2 and 31/10-1) it looks likely that the companies are chasing Eocene sands. Given Aker BP’s interest and experience in this type of play it is even more likely that unconsolidated sands form the main target in this licence.

A Brent equivalent?

Lundin Energy and ONE-Dyas were awarded a large area (PL1094) that mostly covers the Ling Depression and Åsta Graben. Similar to the Stord Basin, it is very much an attempt to prove prospectivity further to the east away from the classic kitchen areas. However, in this case the likely targets are Triassic to Middle Jurassic sandstones. For instance, well 17/6-1 targeted Middle Jurassic Sandnes and Bryne sandstones, which are time-equivalent to the Ness and Tarbert formations further north.

Jaeren High

Vår Energy, Petoro and Lundin Energy were awarded PL1090 in the northwest corner of the Jaeren High. Two wells were previously drilled, 7/1-1 and 7/1-2S. The former terminated in the Triassic, overlain by the Lower Cretaceous, whilst 7/1-2S targeted Ula Fm sands on top of a salt wall. As the area is an interplay between Zechstein salt structures and Triassic and Jurassic reservoirs, it is difficult to predict what the main target in this licence is.

See here the work commitments for all licence awards as well as the operators and partners.