Exploration Update

Saudi Arabia: Red Sea Gas, Norway: More Barents Sea Gas, USA: Nevada ‘Game Changer’
This article appeared in Vol. 9, No. 6 - 2013


Saudi Arabia: Red Sea Gas

An offshore platform in the Karan gas field, a key discovery in Aramco’s focus on offshore gas development. Saudi oil minister Ali bin Ibrahim al-Naimi has revealed that Saudi Aramco has discovered a new gas field in the Red Sea, 26 km north-west of the port of Daba. Two intervals have been tested: one at 5,265m flowed 5.2 MMcfgpd while the other at 5,394m flowed 10 MMcfgpd. Operations at the site (the well name has yet to be revealed by the company) continue but appraisal drilling is already being considered to fully evaluate the size of the find. This offshore drilling campaign follows a 15-month seismic acquisition drive that commenced in 2009 and which not only indicated the potential for significant gas reserves but also that the Red Sea is over two kilometers deep in places, with a salt sequence over 2,110m thick.

As concerns about domestic energy demand increased, Aramco has remained focused on major offshore gas developments, adding 3.6 Tcf to its gas reserves in 2011. They now stand at 282.6 Tcf, the fourth largest in the world. While it has raised gas output significantly, it has not been able to keep up with a 6% per year increase in Saudi demand. There are plans to increase gas output from 9.4 Bcfgpd in 2010 to 15.5 Bcfgpd in 2015. Teams have completed the initial analysis of offshore areas south-west of Julayjilah and Midyan in the lightly-explored Red Sea – some 800 km north of Jeddah, and near the border with Jordan.

Karan, Aramco’s first non-associated gas project, is on track to achieve peak production of 1.8 Bcfgpd in 2013, while the 2.5 Bcfgpd Wasit development, which will take gas from the offshore Hasbah and Arabiyah fields, should come on stream in 2014.

Norway: More Barents Sea Gas

Operating PL533 with a 40% interest, Eni has completed exploration well 7220/10-1, located on the west flank of the Loppa High, north-west of the Snohvit area in the Barents Sea, and declared it to be a gas/condensate discovery. Drilled to a total measured depth of 2,405m on the Salina structure, the well proved two good quality gas columns in sandstone of Cretaceous and Jurassic age. According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), the first target in the Knurr formation was found to be a 38m gas-condensate column, while the secondary target in the Stø formation was found to be 54m thick. The NPD said that the preliminary estimate of recoverable reserves for the Salina discovery is between 29 and 41 MMboe. This is a particularly encouraging result given that a few days earlier, Statoil had revealed that studies of natural gas reserves in the Snohvit license area in the Barents Sea had concluded there wasn’t enough there for gas export expansion.

Continuing the industry exploration drive in these Arctic waters just north of Snohvit, Lundin Petroleum, a partner in the PL533 license, spudded its 7120/6-3 S exploration well in PL490 on October 11, 2012. This is testing the Juksa/Snurrevad prospect, a Late Jurassic/Cretaceous stratigraphic play with 201 MMboe potential net to the company.

USA: Nevada ‘Game Changer’

For many years geologists have speculated that there is undiscovered oil under Nevada. Through its wholly owned Major Oil International subsidiary, Irish explorer US Oil and Gas may have proved this to be something more significant than speculation. While the company’s official line is one of caution until testing and analysis is complete, local media are saying the find could be the biggest of its type in US history.

Well Eblana-1, in the company’s Hot Creek Valley acreage, identified nine large potential oil reservoir intervals (around 335m cumulative net pay) and associated high fracture zones, before reaching target depth of 2,606m in May 2012. Production testing to collect further data, including flow rates and reservoir pressure, commenced early in September and of the 20 potential pay zones identified, up to 15 will be perforated. The company is now planning Eblana-2.

Before Eblana-1 spudded, an independent report by Forrest Garb and Associates estimated gross prospective resources of 189 MMbo in place (P50), with 67 MMbo recoverable. Company chief executive Brian McDonnell confirmed there had been a find but emphasized that testing is not complete, adding, “We would like to verify the flow test results from this well before we say anything more, but we are very excited, and I think it is good for Nevada too.” In Nevada, however, the well is already being trumpeted as a possible ‘game changer’ for the crippled local economy.


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