Frustrating but Necessary: Challenging Seabed Conditions Force IOG to Move Drilling Rig Off Southwark Site

January 10, 2022

The Noble Hans Deul rig on location over the Blythe platform, with Dudgeon wind farm in the background. (File Photo: IOG)
The Noble Hans Deul rig on location over the Blythe platform, with Dudgeon wind farm in the background. (File Photo: IOG)

UK North Sea-focused oil and gas company IOG has hit a setback with the Southwark project drilling and has to move the Noble Hans Deul rig jack-up rig from the Southern North Sea drilling site due to the challenging seabed conditions.

As previously reported, IOG started drilling the first development well at the Southwark gas field in the UK North Sea on December 30, using Noble Corporation's Noble Hans Deul jack-up drilling rig.

"Drilling operations have continued at Southwark since the first development well was spudded on 30 December 2021. However, the Noble Hans Deul rig has experienced an increasing challenge with seabed conditions that, if not remediated, would compromise rig stability," IOG said Monday.

"Technical personnel have explored potential options to manage these challenges. However, on Friday 7 January, the rig owner concluded that, as a prudent precautionary measure, temporary re-location of the rig will be required to facilitate seabed remediation and enable safe continuation of Southwark drilling operations. This course of action is now in motion," IOG added.

"As ever, the top priority of IOG and its drilling contractors remains the safety of all personnel, whilst ensuring the safe and timely continuation of the Southwark drilling campaign. Temporary relocation of the rig minimizes the safety and integrity risks to personnel and assets. The rig is expected to remain offshore with non-essential crew and equipment demobilized while the issue is rectified. Further updates will be provided once there is more certainty on the length of remediation work," IOG said.

Andrew Hockey, CEO of IOG, commented: "This is a frustrating but absolutely necessary step to ensure we can drill and complete the Southwark production wells in a fully safe manner, which is always our foremost priority. Our team is working around the clock with our drilling contractors Noble Corporation and Petrofac to minimize the interruption and resume the Southwark drilling program at the earliest opportunity."

To remind, the Southwark drilling start-up had experienced a two-month delay due to a problem with one of the offshore drilling rig's legs. The issue was identified in October and has since been repaired.

IOG is focused on developing its Southern North Sea gas fields at the Saturn Banks Project. The company in June installed the Blythe and Southwark gas platforms at their respective offshore field locations in the UK. The two usually unmanned, remotely controlled platforms are part of IOG's Saturn Bank project which comprises gas resources across six discovered UK Southern North Sea gas fields. Saturn Bank Phase 1 focuses on the development of Blythe, Elgood, and Southwark fields.

IOG has recently said that given the two-month drilling hiatus the first gas is expected at Southwark by mid-2022. It is not clear what effect the latest setback with the seabed conditions will have on the first gas from Southwark.





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