Westwood Insight’s analysis of 2017 exploration drilling results for Northwest Europe has revealed a 10 yr low in oil discoveries in Norway in 2017.
The company stated that there was a shift towards high-impact exploration drilling in both the UK and Norway in 2017. Norway saw a concerted effort of 10 exploration wells in the Arctic Barents Sea region and there were also five high impact tests in the UK North Sea.
Results from the high-impact prospects, which tested prospective volumes greater than 100 million boe, were described by the company as disappointing, with one commercial success so far announced in the UK with most likely resources of <100 million bbls. In the UK results from infrastructure-led exploration wells near production hubs in 2017 have seen commercial success rates increasing y/y since 2013, reaching over 40% with three results still pending.
In Norway, drilling in the Barents Sea did not lead to any commercial discoveries; overall commercial success rates dropped to 20% and the discovered commercial oil volume was at a 10 yr low.
The level of drilling in the UK in 2018 is expected to be similar to 2017, with around 15 exploration wells planned and the high-impact drilling programme switching focus to gas. Westwood estimates total unrisked pre-drill prospective resources for the UK to be 1 billion boe, of which approximately 750 million boe is gas. Exploration tests at the Lyon gas prospect in the West of Shetland area and Isabella and Rowallan gas condensate prospects in the Central North Sea (CNS) estimate a potential of over 100 million boe. By the end of 2018 the company predicts there will be very few commitment wells remaining to be drilled in the UK. Consequently, drilling activity will be largely discretionary and may be more difficult to sustain.
In Norway, the 2017 results have not deterred plans for 2018. Statoil has reported plans to operate five high-impact exploration tests in the Barents Sea this year, in addition to participating in 20-25 further exploration and appraisal (E&A) wells across the CNS. Overall, Westwood expects 35-40 E&A wells to drill in Norway this year, an increase on 2016.
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