Barents Sea resource boost

April 25, 2017

There are higher hopes for the Barents Sea as the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said the northeastern part of the basin contains more than double that in the southern area. The NPD also expects 15 wildcat wells to be drilled in the Barents Sea this year.

Map of the Norwegian continental shelf showing the new area. Map from NPD.

According to new calculations from the recently mapped eastern part of the northern Barents Sea, consisting of an area of some 170,000sq km, oil and gas resources are twice as large as previously assumed, says the NPD, at 1.4 Bcm.

“The share of undiscovered resources in the Barents Sea has thus been increased from 50% to nearly 65% of the total undiscovered resources on the Norwegian shelf,” says the NPD. “The resources in the new area are estimated at 1.4 Bcm of oil equivalents. This is equivalent to 14 Johan Castberg fields, and more than five times the Snøhvit field.”

The eastern part of the northern Barents is about 10,000sq km larger than the Norwegian part of the North Sea. A large part of this is in the previously disputed area, and most of the new information has been collected after the demarcation line agreement with Russia entered into force in the summer of 2011.

“This figure is naturally associated with some uncertainty. It could turn out to be lower or it could be much higher,” says Director General Bente Nyland.

Nyland says that about 60% of the resources are likely liquids, and the rest is gas.

The expected total resources are about the same in the mapped part of the northern Barents Sea as in the southern Barents Sea, but the northern part is only half the size of the southern part.

“This means that the mapped area in the north has about twice the resource potential per sq km as the southern Barents Sea,” says Nyland.

The updated map of the northern Barents Sea shows an exciting landscape that consists of basins, platforms and highs. According to Nyland, ridges are most important from a geological viewpoint. Good examples are the Utsira High in the North Sea and the Loppa High in the southern Barents Sea. The Utsira High is home to Johan Sverdrup and several other fields, and oil has been discovered, so far, in the Alta and Gohta prospects on the Loppa High.

“In the northern part of the Barents Sea it is particularly the Storbank high, the Sentralbank high and the Kong Karl platform that we consider promising,” says Nyland.  

With all the potential available in the Barents, the NPD is expecting a new record in wildcats in 2017. The most drilled was in 2014 at 13 wells. This year, the NPD expects 15 wells to be drilled.

“This is a significant increase, and shows a very positive development in the Barents Sea,” Nyland announced at the Barents Sea Conference in Hammerfest earlier today (25 April).

An important milestone in 2017 will be to uncover the potential for discovering oil and gas in the southeastern Barents Sea – a recently opened area that was awarded in the 23rd licensing round and where no exploration wells have yet been drilled. According to Nyland, this is where the probability of making a discovery is greatest.

This summer, the NPD says that Statoil will drill the first wildcat well to the northeast in the area, and this well will become very important in the work on mapping the geology in this part of the Barents Sea.

“The well could confirm whether there is petroleum in the area, and will provide us with invaluable knowledge about the subsurface,” Nyland said.

Statoil will also drill five/six wildcat wells in the Barents Sea. Lundin is also planning to drill two new wildcat wells and several appraisal wells in the Alta/Gohta area.

In February, Lundin made an oil and gas discovery in the Barents Sea at Filicudi, which is estimated to contain between 5.5-16 MMcm of recoverable oil equivalents.

As of today, the NPD says that there are three new field developments planned in the Barents Sea: Johan Castberg, Alta/Gohta and Wisting. Submission of the development plan for Johan Castberg is expected at the end of the year, and production is scheduled to start in 2022.

On the Goliat field, operator Eni and Statoil are planning to start producing from the Snadd formation during the year. Snadd has increased the oil reserves on Goliat by 1.2 MMcm (7.5 Mmbbl).

“We also expect more wells to be drilled on Goliat to help improve recovery from the field even further,” she said.

Discovered in 1981, the Askeladd discovery at Snøhvit will be developed in 2020-2021. This will help maintain production on the field for many years to come, the NPD says.

According to the NPD, the Barents Sea currently has few facilities and pipelines, and most of the proven oil and gas deposits are located far from shore. This means that the discoveries must be even larger than in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea, or must be coordinated in order to become profitable.

“If the companies join forces to find good transport and development solutions in the area, the threshold for developing discoveries in the Barents Sea could become much lower,” said Nyland.

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