Mercury dampener for Statoil

Blocking effort: Greenpeace vessel Esperanza earlier tried to halt drilling of Apollo well by Transocean Spitsbergen

Statoil has made a small gas discovery with a third wildcat drilled in the frontier Hoop area of the Barents Sea off Norway but failed to find targeted oil with the probe at the Mercury prospect.

The 7324/9-1 well, drilled by semi-submersible Transocean Spitsbergen about 20 kilometres south-east of OMV’s earlier Wisting Central discovery, hit about 10 metres of gas-filled reservoir of good quality in the Sto formation and a 50-metre reservoir in the Snadd structure of generally poor quality, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

The agency’s preliminary estimate for the size of the discovery was between 1 billion and 2 billion cubic metres of recoverable gas resources.

However, the well result is likely to come as a disappointment to Statoil, which was targeting primarily oil given the lack of existing infrastructure for gas exports in the remote Arctic region.

Conversely, it will be a further cause for celebration for Greenpeace, which has been opposing the Arctic drilling campaign due to the potential risk of an oil spill that could hit the Bear Island nature reserve farther north, after the earlier Atlantis and Apollo wells also failed to deliver the goods.

Statoil confirmed in a statement that none of the three wells have resulted in commercial discoveries, with Atlantis yielding only a small gas find and Apollo coming up dry, and that it had now wrapped up drilling in Hoop for this year.

“We are naturally disappointed with the results of this summer’s drilling campaign in the Hoop area,” said senior vice president for Norway exploration Irene Rummelhoff.

She underlined though that Statoil would press on with its Barents exploration effort despite the setbacks, saying that only six wells had been drilled to date in the 15,000 square-kilometre Hoop area and that dry wells “are part of the game in frontier exploration”.

“We will now analyse the data we have acquired in the wells and incorporate it in our subsurface models. We have confirmed a working petroleum system in Hoop, but need to work further to understand the migration and where the oil has accumulated,” Rummelhoff added.

The Mercury probe - the first well to be sunk in Statoil-operated production licence 614 – was drilled to a vertical depth of 1060 metres in a water depth of 414 metres and has now been permanently plugged and abandoned.

The state-owned oil company holds a 60% operating stake in the licence with sole partner Idemitsu holding the remaining 40%.

Statoil is now mobilising the rig to drill another Barents prospect, Ensis, with the 7125/4-3 well to be spudded shortly in a water depth of 294 metres in its operated PL393B and expected to take 30 days.

The same rig has also been lined up to drill further Barents wildcats later this year at the Pingvin and Isfjell prospects, and could also be used to drill two more upcoming wells at other prospects in the area – Saturn and Askepott.

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