First onshore drilling

November 16, 2006, 09:00 CET

Statoil has spudded its first exploration well on land in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The drilling is taking place in the Hassi Mouina block in Algeria.

"This represents a milestone," says David Poole, vice president for exploration in Algeria.

The Hassi Mounia licence was awarded in June 2004 and comprises four blocks within an area of 23,000 square kilometres in the Gourara basin. Lying in the western Algerian desert, north west of the In Salah gas field, its size is about half that of Denmark. 

Seismic data collection started in September 2005. The work programme comprises the drilling of a minimum of two wells.
Sonatrach, Algeria's national oil and gas company, has earlier proven hydrocarbons in the first reservoir layer of well HTJ-1, of Upper Devonian (Strunian) age.

"The objective of drilling well HTJ-2 is to appraise the find, but also to prove hydrocarbons in deeper sandstone layers of the Lower Devonian and Ordovician," says Mr Poole. "The well will be drilled to a total depth of around 3,200 metres."

Around 150 people work at the drill location, most of them Algerians. Dark sunglasses are an important item of clothing in the Sahara. (Foto: Øyvind Hagen)

The well is being drilled by Nabor Drilling's Rig 284.  
"This is very exciting," says Mr Poole.

"Through this drilling programme we will gain a good assesment of the resource-potential in the area. In addition we will attain invaluable experience for future projects in similar areas. The use of what is for us, new technology, is exciting and gives us expertise in new areas." 
Statoil's working interest in Hassi Mouina is 75%. Sonatrach has 25%. Statoil has completed an environmental impact assessment to ensure that flora and fauna or archeological discoveries will not be damaged.