Statoil 'stalling' on Hoop drilling

Rig wait: West Hercules

Statoil has been forced to postpone drilling of a pair of frontier wildcats in Norway’s extreme north until next year due to delays on delivery of the rig to be used in the campaign, according to a report.

Seadrill-owned semi-submersible West Hercules remains at the Westcon yard on Norway’s west coast as upgrade and winterisation work on the rig has taken longer than expected, while the unit has also been pulled up on technical issues by the country’s safety agency.

Statoil has said it remains confident of starting the total nine-well campaign in the Barents Sea shortly despite ongoing issues with the rig, which was boarded by Greenpeace activists earlier this week in protest at the proposed drilling effort in the eco-sensitive Arctic region.

The Norwegian state oil company intends to first drill four wildcats in the vicinity of its Skrugard and Havis discoveries but has had to rejuggle its drilling schedule on two subsequent wells planned at the Apollo and Atlantis prospects in the more northerly Hoop area.

The probes, which were initially on the radar screen for the end of this year, have now been pushed back into the second half of 2014, Statoil spokesman Ola Anders Skauby told Norwegian newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad.

He said the explorer will now instead drill probes in the Hammerfest basin, where it is targeting the Askepott and Ensis prospects near the Goliat oilfield, after the first four wells under the altered rig schedule.

The move was welcomed by Greenpeace Norway leader Truls Gulowsen, who was among those who boarded the rig, as it would allow more time for further evaluation of the environmental risk of drilling in the Hoop area and may make it more difficult for Statoil to gain the required well permits from the authorities.

Elsewhere in the Arctic, Statoil has suggested it would stall planned exploration drilling off Alaska set for 2015 after Shell recently suspended its abortive campaign in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

US giant ConocoPhillips also said this week it would scrap drilling plans next year in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, including a planned well at the Devil’s Paw prospect with Statoil as a partner, due to regulatory issues.

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