OGA publishes new N. Sea ‘treasure map’ to 3bn barrels of oil in 350 un-tapped reservoirs

One of the charts in the OGA N. Sea 'treasure map'**
One of the charts in the OGA  North Sea ‘treasure map’**

More than three billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) remain in approximately 350 un-tapped reservoirs across the North Sea basin – and the N. Sea regulator has published a new ‘treasure map’ showing exactly where they are.

This new ‘treasure map’ – officially called The Unsanctioned Discoveries Information Pack** – has been drawn up by the Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Authority (OGA).

Most of these resources line in ‘small pools’ –  defined as less than 50 million boe technically recoverable – and are located within potential tieback and/or extended reach drilling distance to existing infrastructure.

However, a number of these small pools lie further away from existing infrastructure and therefore could require stand-alone type solutions to recover hydrocarbons.

This offshore ‘treasure map’ provides charts and data on the following:

  • Number of pools and total P50 recoverable by geographic area
  • Proximity of pools to surface and subsea architecture
  • Summary of key opportunities and challenges
  • Location of small pools and key infrastructure
  • P50 volumes for unlicensed discoveries only

Sixty of these licensed, but un-sanctioned – fields are held on exploration licences granted to Shell (13), Conoco (13), Nexen (12), Total (12) and Apache (10). 

This analysis, completed by detailed maps of the discoveries, was developed by the OGA as part of the Technology Leadership Board’s (TLB) Small Pools Work Group, supported by the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI), Centrica, EnQuest and the Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF).

oga-logoCarlo Procaccini, OGA Head of Technology, said: “We recognise the challenges operators face in developing these marginal oil and gas accumulations.

“But small pools represent a very significant opportunity to maximise economic recovery (MER) from the North Sea. 

 “Technology has an important role to play to reduce the cost of development wells, design optimised subsea infrastructure to existing host facilities and develop efficient standalone concepts.

“We are committed to working together with the industry and the new Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) which has dedicated one of their Solution Centres to unlock the small pools potential.”

The publication of the new OGA Information Pack follows a series of small pool themed ‘hackathons’, facilitated by the NSRI, which took place last year with around 100 companies participating. 

These ‘brain-storming’ seminars generated more than 100 ideas, technologies and efficiency saving measures that may assist in tapping these small reservoirs.**

Among technologies short-listed for further considering were those that could reduce subsea tieback costs – such as mechanical hot taps, mechanically connected pipelines and spooled pipeline products –  as well as novel concepts for efficient standalone solutions such as subsea storage, unmanned production buoys and small, versatile floating facilities. 

Dr Gordon Drummond
Dr Gordon Drummond

Dr Gordon Drummond, NSRI Project Director, said: “Small pools have a national importance in terms of achieving MER and they must be considered as an industry asset if they are to be capitalised upon.

“Following an extensive mapping exercise, we now know exactly where these small pools are located and what is required to unlock their potential.

“If the subsea industry can rise to the challenge of economically tapping into these pools, the North Sea could have a whole new lease of life.

“But technology is only part of the solution. The industry must be much more receptive to innovation – and there must be a willingness to work more collaboratively on multi-field applications and on access to infrastructure.”

Higher crude oil prices would also help stimulate investment across the North Sea. Crude prices are up by over 13% from last month when the Saudi-dominated OPEC proposed its first production freeze since 2008.

But crude is presently slopping around the $50-barrel level as on doubts that the production freeze will actually happen at the next OPEC meeting on 30 Nov 2016.

** Get YOUR (free) North Sea ‘treasure map’ here; –


** And here you can find the ‘technical appendix’ – with charts, diagrams and technical summaries – of all the ‘brain-storming’ ideas considered in the NSRI hackathon workshops:


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