Statoil has kicked off drilling of a high-profile wildcat at the Korpfjell prospect targeting estimated billion-barrel resource potential in the Barents Sea off Norway.
The 7435/12-1 well was spudded on Monday by semi-submersible Songa Enabler in Statoil-operated production licence 859 near the maritime border with Russia, a spokesman for the state-controlled operator confirmed.
“This is a large structure that we are looking forward to drill in a new area with unknown geology so there is a high level of uncertainty. Time will tell,” he said.
The probe, with a reported 18% probability of success and an estimated duration of between 25 and 30 days, has been touted by Oslo-based research firm Rystad Energy as having potential for up to 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
It is also the northernmost well ever to be drilled off Norway, triggering environmental concerns over a possible oil spill close to the Arctic ice boundary.
Statoil is therefore running the gauntlet of Greenpeace, which has already signalled its intent to block the state-controlled explorer’s Barents drilling effort by staging a protest near the site of the previous Gemini Nord well and has its campaign vessel Arctic Sunrise stationed in the region.
Greenpeace Norway leader Truls Gulowsen was recently quoted as saying by Norwegian state TV channel NRK that “perhaps we will have to halt the drilling [at Korpfjell] ourselves” after the Climate & Environment Ministry rejected its complaint against the well.
While there is an exploration risk, there is also the potential for high rewards with Rystad estimating the prospect to hold recoverable resources of 2.2 billion boe and as much as 10 billion boe, which would make it about three times the size of the giant Johan Sverdrup field being developed by Statoil in the North Sea.
Swedish partner Lundin Petroleum has stated the prospect has “multi-billion barrel potential”.
The well is being drilled in a licence awarded last year under Norway’s 23rd licensing round in which both the Environment Agency and Greenpeace called for some northerly tracts to be withdrawn due to their proximity to the ice boundary.
Statoil will be hoping the wildcat delivers a turnaround in fortunes after its previous three wells in the current five-well campaign in the Barents turned up only minor discoveries.
While the Kayak probe found oil and could be exploited as part of the nearby Johan Castberg field, wells at the Blaamann and Gemini Nord prospects uncovered only gas when Statoil was looking for oil.
A discovery at Korpfjell would though present a significant development challenge given it is located around 415 kilometres off northern Norway in a remote area with no existing oil infrastructure.
Statoil holds a 30% operating stake in the Korpfjell licence, with Chevron and Norwegian state holding company Petoro on 20% apiece, and Lundin and ConocoPhillips each on 15%.