December 17, 2019
Edited and Published by GEOExPro Magazine. This article appeared in Vol. 16, No. 6 - 2019
Recently, the upstream industry overall has been reluctant to invest in exploration, especially in wildcat wells, yet between 2013 and 2019, the north-western part of Europe (particularly Norway and the United Kingdom) has seen some success in unearthing additional resources through wildcat exploration. These additional volumes have been dominated by liquids, contrary to the global discovery gas trend. Norway and the UK booked cumulative conventional recoverable resources of ~5.3 Bboe during this period, around 6% of total global discovered volumes. Norway spudded 228 wildcats between 2013 and September 2019, evenly spread across those years, compared to 129 in the UK over the same period, with 40 in 2013 decreasing to a mere eight exploration wells in 2018, and just five so far in 2019. Many of these discoveries have resulted in small or marginal finds, indicating that exploration activities have primarily focused on mature basins and areas within close proximity to existing infrastructure.
Norway has managed to maintain a steady 40–50% success ratio, pointing towards the paradigm shift in the country’s exploration strategy, with operators adopting a more conservative approach towards prospect selection. 2019 has marked a new high for the country since the oil price crash of 2014, with 520 MMboe of recoverable resources discovered, surpassing 518 MMboe discovered in 2018.
Over the past few years, both the NCS and UKCS have seen some exploration activity in their respective frontier basins, where a meaningful discovery with substantial volumes could act as a catalyst. Remaining frontier areas include:
However, the underexplored West of Shetland is poised to be the primary focal point of frontier exploration moving forward, although the remoteness, deeper water depth, and complex geology all pose challenges to unlocking possible discoveries.
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