Maturing Nicely

This article appeared in Vol. 10, No. 6 - 2013


The Seaquest drilling rig, which made the first commercial oil find on the UKCS in 1969. Source: Courtesy of BP Following the discovery of gas onshore the Netherlands in 1959 and offshore the UK in 1963, and then oil in the North Sea a few years later, the hydrocarbon industry in North West Europe virtually exploded with activity and excitement. Over 45 Bb of oil and gas equivalent have since been pumped from reservoirs below the UK and Norway alone, bringing with them many jobs, billions of dollars, the development of hitherto struggling centres like Stavanger and the Shetland Islands, and an influx of high technology companies and innovative intellects.

Fifty years on, most people feel that the major fields have been found, although we still have surprises like the 2010 >3 Bbo Johan Sverdrup discovery on the Norwegian continental shelf. Frontier areas in North West Europe, like the Barents Sea and the Atlantic west of the UK and Ireland, may yet yield major resources, and technology will be crucial in unlocking important new plays, but this will require concentrated effort, considerable financial input and possibly government incentives.

The landscape is changing. Whereas the golden years of exploration offshore North West Europe were dominated by majors and giant fields, many more companies are now involved, including small operators with strong expertise in either an area or a technological challenge, such as heavy oil or high temperature/high pressure reservoirs. They come from all over the world, including many NOCs, a demonstration of the increasing growth in that sector. Much of their efforts will be directed towards developing smaller fields, and in enhancing recovery and extending the life of older fields.

In this edition of GEO ExPro we look at some of the new technologies driving these endeavours, like predicting reservoir pressures in frontier regions, vital for planning new drilling and for understanding migration, and the use of 4D gravity data to enhance recovery from fields nearing depletion.

The wild waters off North West Europe have been the location of many pioneering and innovative technologies in the oil and gas industry, now mainstream and used throughout the world. The techniques and knowledge being developed in this mature area to keep the oil – and the oil dollars – flowing now will prove vital for the long-term future of the industry. 


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