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Explorers look to salvage poor year off Norway

Players eye success with wells planned for remainder of 2019 after only six of 21 wildcats completed so far resulted in finds

Norwegian exploration players are looking ahead to the next six months to salvage what has so far been a poor year for finding new oil and gas resources.

Out of 21 wildcats completed offshore Norway in the first six months of 2019, only six have been discoveries, with combined resources estimated in the range of 90 million to 240 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Roughly two thirds of the additional volumes were found by Aker BP in two follow-up wells to last year’s Frosk (Frog) find in production licences 869 and 340, south of its operated Alvheim field in the North Sea.

The Froskelaar (Frog Leg) Main probe yielded an oil and gas discovery of between 60 million and 130 million boe, parts of which may stretch into the UK sector of the North Sea. Another well at Froskelaar North-East added 2 million to 10 million boe.

The initial Frosk discovery holds about 50 million boe and is scheduled to be tested with a production well later this year tied back to the Boyla subsea field, which is linked to the Aker BP-operated floating production, storage and offloading vessel at Alvheim.

Aker BP recently spudded a further prospect in the area, at the Rumpetroll (Tadpole) prospect in PL 869, with the Odfjell Drilling semi-submersible rig Deepsea Nordkapp in action for the operator.

The only other operator to find any oil and gas so far this year is dominant player Equinor, which is responsible for the other four discoveries, two in the North Sea and two in the Norwegian Sea.

Though small, three of the finds lie near existing infrastructure and may in future be tied in to the Visund, Kristin and Norne fields, respectively, while the fourth discovery near the Fram field is not deemed viable at present.

The slew of dry wells were operated by a range of players including Aker BP and Equinor, as well as Lundin Norway, MOL, Wellesley Petroleum, Wintershall Dea and Spirit Energy.

The biggest disappointment may be the failure to find any oil or gas in the Barents Sea, Norway’s frontier basin where the potential for large discoveries is believed to be highest.

All four Barents Sea probes completed so far this year have been dry, including the closely watched Equinor-operated Gjokaasen Shallow, Gjokaasen Deep and Korpfjell prospects in the eastern part of the Norwegian sector near the marine border to Russia.

Lundin also came up empty-handed at its Pointer-Setter prospect in the southern Barents Sea near the Snohvit field.

Looking ahead to the coming six months, companies have several wildcats lined up that may yet save 2019 from becoming one of the poorest exploration years in Norway’s offshore history.

Five probes are ongoing, including Equinor’s Sputnik prospect in PL 855 in the Barents Sea.

The well lies about 30 kilometres north-east of the Wisting oil discovery, which Equinor will be responsible for developing under a recently minted deal with partner and operator OMV.

Other wells with potential to add a significant amount of new barrels to Norway’s resources are the currently ongoing Equinor-operated Klaff in PL 502 in the North Sea, and Aker BP’s JK prospect just north of the giant Johan Sverdrup development.

The latter well has pre-drilling potential of between 100 million and 420 million boe and could warrant a stand-alone development if it comes up trumps, according to Aker BP.

Upcoming probes in the Norwegian Sea include Aker BP’s Vaagar, which will investigate a Permian carbonate play previously untested in the area, Wintershall Dea’s Toutatis prospect and the Capricorn-operated Lynghaug well near the Norne field.

Equinor and Polish player PGNiG also have wells lined up in the Norwegian Sea with Orn in PL 942 and Shrek in PL 838, respectively, both located within tie-back distance from existing infrastructure.

In addition, Austrian operator OMV is currently appraising its Iris & Hades gas and condensate discovery in the Norwegian Sea, believed to be Norway’s largest 2018 find, aiming to narrow a resource estimate of between 38 million and 245 million boe.

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