Statoil spuds Atlantis wildcat

Under way: Transocean Spitsbergen at Atlantis

Statoil has spudded a second controversial wildcat in the frontier Hoop area of the Barents Sea despite a complaint filed by Greenpeace in an attempt to halt drilling of the well.

The Norwegian state-owned explorer started drilling the 7325/1-1 probe at the Atlantis prospect with semi-submersible Transocean Spitsbergen on Friday, having come up dry with the first wildcat drilled in the area at the Apollo target.

The primary objective for the latest well is the Triassic Kobbe formation, with secondary targets in the Klappmyss and Snadd formations.

The probe, which is being drilled in Statoil-operated production licence 615, is expected to take 44 days to reach an estimated total depth of 2799 metres.

Greenpeace said earlier last week it had lodged a complaint with Norway’s Climate & Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft in an effort to block the second probe in the Arctic play due to the perceived risk of a potential oil spill to the Bear Island nature reserve 173 kilometres to the north-west.

A spokesperson for the environmental group confirmed that drilling could not be carried out in oil-bearing reservoir layers until the complaint had been processed, having seen a similar challenge to the Apollo well overturned.

Greenpeace Norway leader Truls Gulowsen criticised Statoil for starting drilling work before the complaint had been processed and putting time pressure on the authorities in order to gain a favourable decision.

"Statoil has been planning these wells since last year but has waited until the last-minute before applying for permission to drill. This makes the complaints procedure artificial,” he told Upstream.

"The company has given the authorities a tight time-frame in which to process its drilling application and deal with any complaints. At the same time, the minister is under pressure to approve the well as a delay would be very costly for the company.”

Greenpeace has also called into question the millions of dollars being spent by Statoil on the current Arctic exploration campaign, which also involves a third planned well at the Mercury prospect later this summer.

Gulowsen said though the group’s earlier boarding of the rig in a bid to halt Apollo “was not intended to save money for Statoil but to protect Bear Island”.

“We hope Atlantis is equally dry,” he added.

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