Three world-class discoveries made 2011 an exceptional year for the oil industry in Norway. And for the first time since 1997, when the gas field Ormen Lange was found, a giant discovery was made. Also, for the first time since 1997, Norway found more oil and gas than was produced.
That is why the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate called it ‘the year of surprises’.
The foremost discovery last year – ranked as no. 1 in the world – is Avaldsnes/Aldous Major South, which may contain in excess of 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, and it is among the five largest oil discoveries on the Norwegian shelf of all time. However, before the high estimate is confirmed, several appraisal wells have to be drilled.
The accumulation has now got a new name: Johan Sverdrup field, honouring Johan Sverdrup who was the leader of the political movement which promoted the introduction of the parliamentary system in Norway in the 19th century, and who remains an important symbol of the growth of a democratic Norway.
As the graph shows, however, reserves are booked on 2010. Let us therefore recap what happened.
During fall 2010 Lundin announced a new discovery that was named Avaldsnes (16/2-6). The company was certainly proud of what they had achieved and published the story in the magazine GEO. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, known for its conservative estimates, said the discovery could hold between 100 and 400 MMb of recoverable oil.
Lundin presumably knew better, but kept their cards tight.
Several months went by, and it was late summer before Statoil announced that their wildcat, as it was then called, had found oil on another structural high (Aldous Major South; 16/2-8), but the well also proved that the Lundin and Statoil wells had drilled into the same accumulation, with a saddle between the two highs. Only a month later, Lundin had completed an appraisal well and presented the results on a press conference. The field had grown, again, and the best case estimate was 3.3 Bboe.
Barents Sea Discoveries Too
Johan Sverdrup lies on the Utsira High in the North Sea. The two other significant discoveries that were made last year were both in the Barents Sea.
The oil discovery Skrugard may hold up to 300 MMb of recoverable oil equivalents, predominantly in Jurassic sandstones (GEO ExPro Vol. 8, No. 2). It was said to be the third largest discovery in the world last year.
The gas discovery Norvarg was made in Triassic sandstones. Gas is found in several strata and the reserve estimate is thus very uncertain. According to NPD, Norvarg has between 350 Bcf and 1.77 Tcf of gas. In oil quivalents, the high estimate equals the high estimate of Skrugard. This, together with the recently proven oil discovery Havis, of the same magnitude as Skrugard, has resulted in new optimism and interest in the largely unexplored Barents Sea.
Altogether 22 new oil and gas discoveries were made in 2011. 16 of these were made in the North Sea, 3 in the Norwegian Sea and 3 in the Barents Sea.
In total, 54 exploration wells were terminated in 2011. This is an increase from 2010, when 41 exploration wells were terminated.