Further North Sea exploration

December 28, 2006, 09:00 CET

Statoil has today, Thursday 28 December, commenced drilling of exploration well 16/4-4 on the North Sea Biotitt prospect. The drilling marks the start of a busy exploration programme for the West Epsilon rig which initially will drill four North Sea exploration wells for Statoil.

"We've secured significant capacity in the North Sea over the next few years with the West Epsilon contract," says Tim Dodson, Statoil's senior vice president for exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

In the summer, Statoil signed a contract with the Seadrill company for the chartering of the jack-up rig for three years. West Epsilon can only operate at water depths down to 128 metres.

The rig has now begun drilling the first well on the Biotitt prospect, south west in block 16/4 in production licence 339, awarded in 2004. The prospect lies north east of the Sleipner West field. Statoil is operator with a 70% stake, while ExxonMobil has 30%.

The well will be drilled to a total depth of around 2,400 metres. The water depth in the area is around 91 metres. Exploration drilling is expected to take 40 days with the aim of proving gas/condensate which can be produced by the Sleipner A platform.

Following Biotitt drilling, the rig will continue exploration in the southern part of the North Sea. Well number two will be drilled on the Ermintrude prospect in block 15/6 in production licence 303, awarded in 2003.

Following that, it will be moved to the Ragnarrock structure in production licence 265, awarded in 2001.

"The four exploration wells that will initially be drilled are in areas that could yield valuable additional resources near existing infrastructure," says Mr Dodson. "The wells are an important part of Statoil's exploration programme on the NCS."

West Epsilon will also drill in the "cellar" under the Statoil-operated Huldra field in production licence 051.

"West Epsilon's activity is important for us in achieving our goal of producing one million barrels of oil equivalent on the NCS in 2015," says Mr Dodson.