Statoil to drill nine exploration wells in Barents Sea

Posted on 28 August 2012

The Polar Pioneer drilling rig in the Barents Sea. (Photo: Sverre Kojedal)

Statoil will drill nine wells during a non-stop 2013 Norwegian Barents exploration campaign, increasing its Arctic activities. The company plans to meet development challenges in the region by tripling its Arctic technology research budget.

Of the 94 exploration wells drilled in the Norwegian Barents Sea so far, Statoil has been involved in 89.

“After our Skrugard and Havis discoveries we still see attractive opportunities here,” said Tim Dodson, exploration executive vice president for Statoil. “This is a less challenging area, as the Norwegian Barents is one of the only Arctic areas with a year-round, ice-free zone. We also see the possibility of utilizing knowledge gained here for Arctic prospects elsewhere later on – just like we’ve already done with Snøhvit.”

Statoil will start drilling in Nunatak in the Skrugard area in December and will drill and complete four wells in this area over a six-month period. “These wells are time critical, as any additional resources will make the Skrugard development even more robust,” Mr Dodson said.

The campaign will then continue with the drilling of two-three wells in the Hoop frontier exploration area further north in the Barents in the summer of 2013. These will be the northernmost wells ever drilled in Norway.

The 2013 Barents drilling campaign finishes in the Hammerfest basin, the most mature province of the Barents. Here, Statoil will carry out growth exploration close to the existing Snøhvit and Goliat discoveries.

In addition to increasing its drilling activities, Statoil has created a technology road map to prepare for activities in even harsher Arctic areas.

This includes:

  • A tripling of the current Arctic research budget – from NOK 80 million (in 2012) to NOK 250 million (in 2013);
  • A research cruise to northeast Greenland in September; and
  • The maturing of an Arctic drill unit concept.

Some of the technology highlights include a cost-effective 3-D seismic for exploration prospect evaluation in ice and the continuing development of a tailor-made, Arctic drill unit. The unit will be able to operate in a wide range of water depths across the Arctic and will involve integrated operations in drifting ice.

Functions here are to include a management system to reduce ice impact, an optimized drilling package for faster drilling and increased rig availability, and solutions to ensure that the rig maintains its position. A robust solution for dynamic positioning dedicated for ice operation does not exist.

“When we see a technology need, we try to fill the gap ourselves. We have now directed our strategic focus towards developing technology for exploration and production in ice. A new dedicated unit has been established to solve these challenges,” said Margareth Øvrum, Statoil technology, projects and drilling executive vice president

The 22nd license round on the NCS will award new licenses in spring 2013. Seventy-two blocks in the Barents will be offered.

“The Skrugard discovery has reignited interest in the Barents. A number of major companies that had left the area will be looking to make their way back in,” Mr Dodson said.

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