Norwegian oil and gas giant Equinor has initiated an exploration campaign on the UK continental shelf (UKCS) comprising five wells in 2019, which is a record number for the company.
Two exploration wells – one Equinor-operated and one partner-operated – are already underway, Equinor said on Thursday. In addition, three more Equinor-operated wells will be drilled later in the year.
In January, drilling started at the Bigfoot exploration prospect located near the Mariner field. Mariner is an Equinor-operated field development due to start production later this year. The well is drilled by the Seadrill-operated drilling rig West Phoenix.
As previously reported, the West Phoenix rig was moved in January from Norway to the UKCS to start working on Equinor’s drilling campaign.
The same rig will later drill the Pip prospect in the relatively under-explored East Shetland Platform. Both Bigfoot and Pip were awarded in the 29th licensing round in 2017 with Equinor as operator and BP as partner.
Jenny Morris, Equinor’s vice president for exploration in the UK, said: “These are two interesting licences, with Bigfoot in an area of the North Sea that’s relatively mature and Pip testing the under-explored margins of the basin. Both opportunities have been matured through the acquisition of new seismic data and will provide more answers about the remaining potential on the UKCS.”
“We continue to believe in new exploration opportunities on the UKCS and a combination of new data, latest technologies, data analytics and continued high-quality regional subsurface work has the potential to unlock these unproven accumulations,” she continued.
The exploration campaign also includes an appraisal of the Verbier discovery which was announced in October 2017. The results will help refine the current estimated volumes which range between 25 and 130 million barrels of oil equivalent.
The Verbier appraisal well has been delayed a couple of times. The latest report made last November by one of Equinor’s partners said that the well was planned for the first quarter of 2019.
Later in the year Equinor, will use the West Phoenix drilling rig to drill the Lifjellet prospect in license P2378, with partner Shell. The license was awarded as part of the 30th UK licensing round in October 2018, indicating an efficient award-to-spud process for the partnership. Equinor also recently acquired an 8% interest in an Eni-operated license (P1620) north west of the Culzean field. Drilling operations on the Rowallan prospect in the P1620 license started in December.
Al Cook, Equinor’s UK country manager, said: “With the multi-billion pound development of our two new major projects, Mariner and Rosebank, this exploration program underlines our confidence in investing in this country. Together with our growing wind power business, we plan to remain a strong and reliable energy partner for the UK.”