GEO ExPro

Life in the Old Dog Yet!

Even a seriously mature province like the North Sea can bring surprises. The Catcher discovery, made in June this year, is proof that impressive new hydrocarbon accumulations can still be found there, 45 years after the first discovery was made.
This article appeared in Vol. 7, No. 5 - 2010

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The Andrew field in the Central North Sea was discovered in 1974 and came onto production in 1996 © BP p.l.c Catcher, which has estimated oil in place reserves of about 300 MMbo, lies on the western margins of the Central Graben, in blocks that had been previously licensed but undrilled. It is a good example of how a combination of perseverance and new insights into the subsurface can be rewarded.

Even a seriously mature province like the North Sea can bring surprises. The Catcher discovery, made in June this year, is proof that impressive new hydrocarbon accumulations can still be found there, 45 years after the first discovery was made. Catcher, which has estimated oil in place reserves of about 300 MMbo, lies on the western margins of the Central Graben, in blocks that had been previously licensed but undrilled. It is a good example of how a combination of perseverance and new insights into the subsurface can be rewarded.

Interest in the North Sea is still vigorous, as evidenced by the results of both the UK 26th Offshore Licensing Round and the Norwegian Awards in Predefined Areas 2010. Eighteen exploration wells were drilled in the first three quarters of 2010 in the UK North Sea - compared to fourteen in the whole of 2009 - and a similar number of wildcats have been drilled in the Norwegian sector.

The many new and innovative technologies, visualisation tools and integration methodologies at the disposal of asset teams are all helping to identify fresh hydrocarbon pools, at a time in the life of this province when it might be expected to be sinking into retirement, watching the final drops of oil being squeezed out. And not only are new resources still being found, but production and enhanced oil recovery methods are being developed which allow production from fields which had been considered uncommercial or depleted.

While celebrating the ongoing success of the North Sea it is important to keep looking ahead to ensure that not only do we continue to have the tools required for such advanced production, but we also have the people to develop them and to process and interpret the results. This requires collaboration between the industry, the professional societies and the academic institutions, to ensure that we can enthuse and train enough young people to continue this important work, not only in the North Sea and North West Europe, but throughout the world.

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