Where’s being drilled at the moment?North Sea from Aberdeen beach. Photo: Henk Kombrink

Where’s being drilled at the moment?

As 2021 is off to a start, six exploration wells are currently being drilled offshore NW Europe.

A quick 2020 recap

In terms of exploration wells spudded, 2020 was a year of strongly reduced activity, particularly on the UK Continental Shelf. With only six well spuds, some of which are still drilling, the only positive signs in terms of discoveries were the Eocene injectite play wells drilled by Apache in blocks 9/19b-28 and 29.

Of course, Neptune Energy announced the discovery of gas and condensate in the Isabella prospect, but this well (30/12d-11) was spudded in 2019.

Norway saw more discoveries (Dugong, Warka, Swisher amongst others), with potentially the biggest one of the year being announced when many people were preparing for Christmas – Slagugle by ConocoPhillips. Meanwhile, Denmark did not see any exploration wells drilled – a picture that is not going to change this year probably – whilst four wells were spudded in the Netherlands.

Looking at what is going on at the moment, there are five wells being drilled in the area stretching from the Barents to the Southern North Sea.

Norway – Is Barents Sea going to deliver this year?

Starting with the northernmost well, 7219/11-1 is the last attempt of a three-well campaign for Lundin and Equinor and the new West Bollsta rig in the Barents Sea. With the first two holes (Spissa and Polmak) reported dry, it would be a welcome change both for the operator as well as the Barents Sea in general to see a positive outcome of the 250 MMbo of unrisked prospective resource targeted in the Paleocene Bask prospect.

The second well currently being drilled in Norwegian waters is 31/1-2S northwest of the Troll field, operated by Equinor. Targeting a classic Brent reservoir interval, this well can still be regarded as relatively frontier because of the location in an area that was previously regarded as a conduit for hydrocarbon migration rather than a place where it would be trapped.

UKCS – Two exploration wells ongoing, or three?

In the UK, three exploration wells are currently drilling. The first one is just west of the Penguin East field in the Northern North Sea. Shell is currently redeveloping this field through drilling 8 wells, of which 211/14a-10 must be one. It seems a bit of surprise to see that this well is classified as an exploration well. The explanation may be that it is not targeting the Brent reservoir of the Penguin East field, but the Upper Jurassic Magnus sands that may be present just east of the field. Slide number 8 from this Devex presentation may support this view.

The second well currently being drilled in the UK is 9/19b-29Z. Most likely, it is targeting Eocene injectite sands of the UK extension of the Froskelår/Gamma discoveries.

The last well to be discussed is the Glengorm appraisal well spudded last year by CNOOC. Down as an appraisal well by the authorities, when plotted on a map (see this expronews article) it seems that 22/26d-3 is targeting the Cringletie prospect just to the southeast of the Glengorm discovery. For this reason, we carry this well as an exploration well.

Netherlands – ONE-Dyas aiming for oil?

In the Dutch offshore, one exploration well is currently being drilled. F06-7 is operated by ONE-Dyas and although the target is unknown, the drilling operation was estimated to be six weeks, which makes it unlikely that it is shallow gas. More likely, it is aiming at a downdip oil accumulation from the F03-FB field which is just north of the well.