ExxonMobil has received consent from the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) Norway to use West Alpha drilling rig for production drilling, completion and installation of subsea equipment on the Balder field, in the North Sea.
Balder was the first oil field to be discovered on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, with Esso as the sole licensee in production licence 001. This happened as far back as 1967, more than two years before the Ekofisk field was discovered and declared viable. At the time, Balder was not assessed to be commercially interesting. Following new investigations, the Balder field was subsequently developed. Production began in 1999, still with ExxonMobil as the sole licensee and operator.
The Balder field is in the central North Sea, around 213 kilometres west of Stavanger. The field has been developed using a subsea solution tied to a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit. Water depth in the area is approximately 125 metres.
ExxonMobil has now received consent from the PSA to use West Alpha to drill and complete new production wells on the field. According to the PSA, the activities also concern the installation of subsea equipment and the plugging of wells no longer in use.
West Alpha is a semi-submersible drilling rig, built at the Nippon Kokan yard in Japan in 1986, and subsequently upgraded several times. The rig is owned by Seadrill and operated by North Atlantic Drilling. It is registered in Panama and classified by DNV GL.
West Alpha was issued with an Acknowledgement of Compliance (AOC) by the PSA in June 2006.
ExxonMobil and Rosneft recently used West Alpha rig to spud the Universitetskaya-1 well, in the Kara Sea, the Russian Federation’s northernmost well. The two companies later reported that the operations will stop due to the U.S. sanctions imposed against Russia.