Norway’s Statoil has significantly stepped up its pace in the United States and Canada in recent times, as it executes its strategy of building up North America into a core area for the state-owned operator.

Statoil is underway with an aggressive exploration program that will stretch out over the next two years or so across the US Gulf of Mexico, Canada and Alaska. Having spent the last couple of years building up a strong prospect portfolio, the company already has a couple of sizeable discoveries in the early stages of development with plenty of other prospects to be tested both this year and next.

The company achieved early success last year when it discovered its Logan field last year in Walker Ridge Block 969. According to Hart’s Deepwater International newsletter, Statoil is now carrying out early pre-development work on the ultra-deepwater find with the aim of making it a new hub development.

The operator is planning to drill an appraisal well on Logan early in 2013, with the company’s development group underway with a fast-track pre-development project. Statoil is using targeted technology for the Wilcox and Paleogene formations being developed in its research centre under the code name ‘Crack the Paleogene’.

Statoil wants to directly apply the research work over the next couple of years on Logan, which lies in 2,653 m (8,704 ft) of water.

Logan looks increasingly set to act as a hub facility for several satellite prospects in the surrounding area, including one where a wildcat well is already underway on the nearby Bioko Paleogene prospect in a water depth of 1,937 m (6,355 ft) in Keathley Canyon Block 698 using Transocean’s Discoverer Americas drillship, according to Deepwater International.

The company is also drilling another well on its Kilchurn Miocene prospect using the semisubmersible rig Maersk Developer in Green Canyon Block 404. It also has other exploration wells lined up for next year on prospects including Sake and Coral.

Logan was Statoil’s first operated discovery in the US Gulf, and the operator is expected to reveal more details on the size of the reserves before the end of this month.

The discovery well discovered “superior oil quality and a very very good reservoir in our pay zone that are in fact some of the best, if not the best that have been seen in the Gulf of Mexico in the Paleogene to date,” according to a recent briefing by Erik Finnstrom, Senior Vice President, Exploration North America for Statoil.

That has given the operator the confidence to plan to drill a downdip appraisal well. Statoil is already involved in the development of the large Paleogene discoveries Jack/St.Malo in the area, where it also has the Julia discovery.

“What we have here with Logan is significant, proven, STOOIP (oil in place) and the possibility for volumes, together potentially with our Bioko if this comes in, to create a hub area for Statoil in the future,” added Finnstrom. Statoil’s partners in Logan are Petrobras (35%) and Ecopetrol (20%). On Bioko its partner (40%) is ConocoPhillips.

If it does not come in as large as hoped, Statoil does also have options to tie back the discovery subsea to the Jack-St.Malo fields some 40km north-east.

Other prospects in the GoM that Statoil has lined up for drilling within the next two years either as operator or partner include Candy Bars, Demon Star, Coral and Hummer Shallow. ExxonMobil, the operator of Hummer Shallow, is expected to spud a wildcat well on the prospect before the end of this year.

Another non-operated development Statoil has in its portfolio is the Heidelberg field. The latest Heidelberg appraisal,operated by Anadarko Petroleum, was a success and has verified the volumes that were thought to be there. 

“Anadarko is confident on Heidelberg that they are probably moving head with a development,” added Finnstrom.

Offshore Canada, meanwhile, Statoil has been building a significant portfolio in the Grand Banks area focused on the Flemish Pass Basin. The company already has the Mizzen discovery in this frontier area and is planning to spud a new probe on the Harpoon prospect before the end of this year using the West Aquarius rig. Statoil has three slots booked for the rig, starting with the Harpoon probe.

Offshore Alaska Statoil is again using its harsh environment and Arctic knowledge and has already acquired high quality 3D seismic data. It is currently maturing the Amundsen prospect towards a possible drill date in 2014, and also has a 25% stake in 50 other licenses operated by ConocoPhillips. The US operator has developed an impact-size prospect called Devils Paw for potential drilling in 2014 also, says Statoil.