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Shell files plan to drill near North Platte

Caramel Keg prospect planned for south-east Garden Banks area

Shell has filed an exploration plan to drill a prospect just a stone's throw east of the promising but undeveloped Lower Tertiary discovery of North Platte in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico

The Anglo-Dutch supermajor filed the plan on 19 September to cover the blocks of Garden Banks 961 and 962, the closest of which is a mere three miles away from the discovery in Garden Banks 959.

Shell confirmed the plan to Upstream, as well as the name of the prospect, Caramel Keg, but said the timeline for drilling was yet to be determined.

While full details were not yet available from the US Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement, Shell has laid out up to six drilling sites and mirror locations, which sit in about 5000 feet of water.

North Platte has been watched especially closely of late because independent Cobalt is marketing its stake in the discovery following financial difficulties, and due to announce the results of a bid process this month that is said to have attracted a range of top global players.

While clarity on that outcome has not yet emerged, Cobalt has affirmed its estimate of recoverable resources at North Platte of between 500 million and 800 million barrels of oil equivalent, with its mean recoverable estimate at 650 million boe.

A Shell spokeswoman, however, said it was important to note that "this exploration plan is unrelated to the Cobalt transaction."

Regardless of the sale process taking place, the Anglo-Dutch supermajor has long had an interest in the south-east corner of the Garden Banks area, having acquired the GB 962 block in 2012 with a bid of $61.4 million. It has a 100% share in the tract.

It supplemented that position at a lease sale this year, picking up GB 961 uncontested for $2.25 million.

Shell was just one of multiple players including Chevron, Statoil and Total that scrambled and competed to also pick up acreage in that area at the US Gulf lease sale this past spring, but it would be the first since Cobalt to spin a bit in that part of the region.

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No specific drilling permit is yet visible on file with the US BSEE, and the exploration plan has not yet been approved.

Should Shell proceed with drilling the target, the company has multiple rigs on contract in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment.

The Transocean drillship Deepwater Thalassa is doing work at the Stones field, while the Transocean drillship Deepwater Proteus has kicked off duties at the upcoming Appomattox development.

Meanwhile, the drillship Noble Globetrotter is drilling the Ipanema prospect north of the Stones field on Walker Ridge 376.