German operator Wintershall has passed a new milestone in moving its Norwegian Skarfjell discovery towards a development.
After studying more than 20 different scenarios for the field, the company last week completed the screening phase and passed the so-called DG1 stage for the North Sea find, Bernd Schrimpf, managing director for Wintershall in Norway, told Upstream.
Both a stand-alone development and a tie-back solution to the Gjoa field remain on the table, as well as a possible combination of new and existing infrastructure, Schrimpf said. Much will depend on talks with operators of other discoveries in the area, as well as the results from upcoming exploration wells.
"We have made very big progress on Skarfjell," Schrimpf said. Skarfjell and the other nearby discoveries "have to come together in one development, and I think the other operators are also prepared to do that".
"Then we can see what the volumes are, and what is the most economical solution."
Wintershall, Statoil, RWE and other operators in quadrant 35 are working together on a joint plan to ensure that no resources are left stranded. Skarfjell - currently the largest and the most centrally located of the finds - is likely to get a leading role in the project.
While a tie-back to Statoil-operated Gjoa is an option, the platform can probably not provide all the services a Skarfjell development would need, Schrimpf said. Therefore the company is also looking at solutions that combine a tie-back with a small floating production, storage and offloading vessel.
The most important part is that the development is flexible enough to take on additional resources later, as there is much more exploration potential in the area, Schrimpf said.
In addition to studying technical options, the various operators and licensees are also likely to look at the ownership structure of the licences, Schrimpf said. With many small players involved, there will probably be some changes before a project reaches the more costly stages.
Further north, Wintershall’s Maria discovery in the Norwegian Sea is also moving down the road towards production. The company expects to submit a plan for development and operation early next year, with first oil expected in 2018.
Maria is a complex subsea development tied back to three different installations. Here, too, there will be enough flexibility to tie in other discoveries, possibly including Wintershall’s own Rodrigues and Solberg finds.