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The company’s plans include drilling nine wells in the Barents Sea and investing more money in its Arctic research budget.
Norway’s Statoil has long been one of the great pioneering companies of the offshore industry, and the company shows no sign of letting that hard-earned reputation slide as it steps up the pace of its exploration activity in the Arctic and develops the technology required to get the oil and gas out of the ground.
The state-owned major confirmed at Offshore North Seas (ONS) in Stavanger that it will drill nine wells in 2013 in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, as well as triple its Arctic technology research budget from NOK 80 million (US $14 million) in 2012 to NOK 250 million ($43 million) in 2013.
Choosing to first focus naturally at ONS on its activity in the Norwegian Arctic, Statoil’s exploration executive vice president, Tim Dodson, described the Barents as “a less challenging area, as the Norwegian Barents is one of the only Arctic areas with a year-round ice-free zone.”
Statoil will start drilling using the West Hercules deepwater rig in Nunatak in the Skrugard field area in December, and will drill and complete four wells there over a four-month period. If successful, said Mr Dodson, Statoil has already pencilled in plans for first oil by 2018.
The campaign will then continue with the drilling of up to three wells in the Hoop frontier exploration area further north in the Barents in the summer of next year. These will be the northernmost wells ever drilled offshore Norway. The drilling campaign next year will finish in the Hammerfest basin, the most mature province of the Barents.
But Dodson stressed in a press briefing that the operator would be utilizing the knowledge it gained in the Barents for Arctic prospects elsewhere later on, and flagged up the company’s other main areas of Arctic interest.
The Arctic has around 20% of the world’s yet-to-find conventional oil and gas, he pointed out, with Statoil active in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk and its sector of the Barents, as well as West Greenland, Canada’s Newfoundland & Labrador, the Beaufort Sea, and Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.
Statoil has interests via a joint venture offshore Russia in four offshore exploration licenses including Perseevsky and Okhotsk. It is planning to shoot seismic next year in the Sea of Okhotsk, with a well likely by 2016.
The company has two new leases offshore Newfoundland in the Flemish Pass area where it will shoot 3D seismic and where wells will be drilled using Seadrill’s West Aquarius deepwater rig. A three-well drilling program is planned to get underway before the end of this year.
Also, Statoil has three blocks off Western Greenland in the Baffin Bay area and is planning to shoot 3D seismic over the Anu and Napu blocks. It is also planning to make a “drill or drop” decision on the adjacent Pitu block in 2013.
Dodson went on to outline Statoil’s take on its Arctic portfolio via three different views.
The first is simply termed “workable” and is where the company can drill wells now, such as in the Norwegian Barents Sea. The second is termed “stretch” Arctic and is where ice-free activity is possible during weather windows, such as in the Chukchi Sea. The third is termed “extreme” Arctic and is where Statoil says radical innovation is required for drilling and operations to take place, mainly due to prevalent or permanent ice-bound conditions year-round.
This is why the Norwegian company is upping its research budget, as it bids to find solutions to this problem and close technology gaps. Its road map also includes conducting a special research cruise in conjunction with Norwegian universities to northeast Greenland in September focusing on ice management and how to manage ice issues.
Margareth Ovrum, the company’s technology, projects, and drilling executive vice president, also highlighted Statoil’s ambition to mature the concept of an Arctic drilling unit, able to drill year-round in ice-bound conditions in varying water depths. Its work on this conceptual unit is based on Statoil’s experience with developing specialized category “A” and “B” rigs for the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The Arctic category unit is planned to be able to operate in varying water depths across the region, and will involve integrated operations in drifting ice.
Functions will have to include a management system to reduce ice impact, an optimized drilling package for faster drilling and increased rig availability, and solutions to ensure that the rig dynamically maintains its position. At present, said Ovrum, no robust solution for dynamic positioning dedicated for ice operations exists. “When we see a technology need, we try to fill the gap ourselves. We have now directed our strategic focus towards developing technology for exploration and production in ice. A new dedicated unit has been established to solve these challenges,” she said.
Ovrum also went on to state her believe in the importance of the subsea factory concept as a major potential solution for the Arctic, building on existing technologies to create new solutions. Statoil is already, of course, underway with two major seabed gas compression and boosting projects offshore Norway on its Asgard and Gullfaks fields. “Subsea technology will solve a lot of the challenges,” she said. “We have launched our ambition for a subsea factory by 2020. That is our road map.”
She added Statoil was developing more robust solutions for both permanent and floating production solutions for the Arctic, as well as other technologies including shooting seismic in ice.
Lastly, but by no means least, Statoil is also part of an Arctic Oil Spill Joint Industry Project, she added.
Contact the author, Mark Thomas, at firstname.lastname@example.org.