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Focus on North Sea despite pause in drilling

Oilfield Technology,

North Sea drilling activity paused during Q3 2013 following an encouraging second quarter, according to the latest offshore activity report from Deloitte.

The report, compiled by Deloitte’s petroleum service group (PSG), discovered that although the number of new well drilled on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) dropped by approximately one third compared to Q2, the outlook for the North Sea remained positive.

A total of 11 exploration and appraisal wells were drilled during Q3 this year, five fewer than during Q2 and six fewer than the same period last year. Despite the drop in figures for the UKCS, the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) has produced eight more wells during Q3 than the same period last year.

Drilling figures affected

Graham Sadler, managing director of Deloitte’s PSG, said a number of factors have affected the UK drilling figures over the summer: “While the summer is often a peak period for drilling, the UKCS is a complex region, with a natural ebb and flow of activity across the North Sea industry”.

“When bidding for exploration licences, companies make a commitment to the Government to drill a certain amount of wells within a certain timeframe. Many companies have commitments from recent licensing rounds which are yet to be fulfilled, so we may well see these materialise in the coming months, drawing a more positive conclusion to the end of the year,” Sadler added.

However, while drilling offshore UK slowed, deal activity saw an upturn. During Q3 there were 14 deals reported, two more than during the same period in 2012.

Strong prospects

Graeme Sheils, energy partner at Deloitte, Aberdeen, said the prospects for the region were strong: “While the most recent drilling figures are lower than expected, one quarter does not tell the whole story. Business confidence continues to be positive around the outlook for UKCS, with the oil service sector seeing high activity levels on the back of strong production.”

Smaller explorer companies have continued to show interest and enter the North Sea, which in part explains the prominence of the farm-in style deals the region has seen in both this and recent quarters.

Investment focus

Sheils added: “These players, as well as others, have a vast number of considerations when planning drilling programmes and there is no doubt that these have altered as a result of the maturity of the UKCS and accessibility to finance.”

“The North Sea remains a focus for investment and we do not expect this to change in the very near future.”

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

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