The first exploration wells on new Barents Sea acreage, which has been opened to the industry for the first time, could be in place as early as next year, targeting billion barrels of oil equivalent prospects.
Three new licenses in areas not opened to exploration before in the southern Barents Sea have been offered in Norway's 23rd licensing round, alongside seven other licenses that are set to last between one to six years.
Both Statoil and Lundin Norway picked up five licenses each.
The 23rd round is the first time since 1994 that new exploration acreage has been made available to the industry in the southeastern Barents Sea, with license commitments that include drilling four exploration wells within three years.
The new blocks have the ability to strengthen the resource base for future developments.
Det Norske will operate PL858, Centrica Resources will operate PL852, and Cairn Energy will operate PL856. Partners include Chevron, Lukoil, ConocoPhillips, Tullow, PGNiG, Idemitsu, and OMV. In all, applications were submitted by 26 companies.
Billion barrel potential
Statoil's awards cover five commitment wells – one in the vicinity of the company's existing position, and four in the southeastern part of the Barents Sea, providing access to interesting acreage in a new area on the NCS.
Statoil's production license 857, which has one commitment well, is close to the border with Russia and 150km off the coast of Norway. Partner Lundin says PL857 contains a large dome-like structure with several stacked prospects at Jurassic and Triassic levels with in excess of a billion boe in total resource potential.
"We will now be able to explore a very interesting area in the Barents Sea. There is always uncertainty related to probability of discovery in new areas. But if we make a discovery, it may involve considerable resources. Exploring in such areas and making substantial discoveries are vital if the NCS is to maintain its production," Jez Averty, Statoil senior vice president for exploration on the NCS said.
The Norwegian giant's licenses include:
"Based on in-house work and seismic data acquisition in 2013 and 2014 Statoil is well prepared for exploration drilling. Through the Barents Sea Exploration Collaboration (BaSEC) the industry has laid the groundwork for conducting safe and cost-effective drilling. We expect to drill the first well already in 2017, and will cooperate with our partners to reach this goal," Averty said.
All of Lundin's licenses are located in the southern Barents Sea with the company holding operatorship of three.
PL609C and PL851 are on the Loppa High, east and northeast of the Lundin-operated Alta discovery. Lundin is the operator with 40% stake in each. Lundin is also operator of PL853 with 60% stake.
PL857, in which Lundin holds 20% stake, is located in the newly opened south eastern Barents Sea area close to the Russian border and around 150km from the northern coast of Norway, with one committed exploration well.
PL859 (15% stake) is located north of PL857 and around 420 km from the northern coast of Norway.
"I am very pleased that the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has awarded us what we regard as high impact exploration acreage in the southern Barents Sea. Through this 23rd licensing round we have further consolidated our leading acreage position in the Loppa High where we hold the Alta and Gohta oil discoveries. I am particularly excited about the billion barrel prospectivity on the acreage awarded in the southeastern Barents Sea. This acreage is for the first time being made available for oil and gas exploration and with the new 3D seismic data we have available means that these prospects are drill-ready," Kristin Faerovik, Lundin Norway managing director said.