NPD sees optimism on
Norwegian Continental Shelf
Undiscovered recoverable resources on the Norwegian Continental Shelf are an estimated 935 million to 5,420 million
standard cu m of oil equivalent (scmoe), the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate estimated last month.
The estimate embraces the entire NCS except for a new
area in the northeastern Barents Sea acquired under a recent
maritime delimitation treaty between Norway and Russia.
The undiscovered recoverable average volume of 2,980
million scmoe is 410 million higher than the previous NPD
estimate in 2011.
From 1966 through April 2013, about 1,430 exploratory
wells have been drilled on the NCS, peaking at nearly 50
wells/year in the 1980s, receding to a low of 5 in 2005, and
averaging more than 40 wells/year the last 5 years.
Resource growth the past 15 years has been substantially
smaller than in the two previous 15-year periods, NPD said,
but the last 5 years have been positive with several large discoveries including Johan Sverdrup on the North Sea’s Utsira
high in 2010.
NPD noted that Norway’s overall offshore area covers
2.04 million sq km, 6½ times the country’s mainland area
(Fig. 1). About half of the NCS contains sedimentary rocks
that could contain oil and gas.
The full report in seven parts is published on the NPD
The main reason for the rise in its estimate of undiscovered
recoverable resources on the NCS is that it included for the
first time areas in the Barents Sea southeast and the Jan Mayen area, NPD said.
The largest components of NPD’s average NCS estimate
of 2,980 million scmoe are the Barents Sea with 960 million scmoe and the North Sea with 850 million scmoe. The
Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea southeast, and Jan Mayen have
Liquids potential is judged to be greatest in the North Sea
and gas potential largest in the Barents Sea. In other words,
should discoveries be made, gas is most likely to be found
in the Barents Sea southeast and oil around Jan Mayen, NPD
Uncertainty as to undiscovered resources is greatest in
the Barents Sea, where exploration didn’t begin until 1980
and the fewest wells have been drilled. Exploration in the
North Sea began in the mid-1960s, so uncertainty there is
less because more plays have been confirmed by discoveries.
A series of discoveries has resulted from the high level of
exploratory activity in recent years.
Three of the past 5 years accounted for the largest-ever
number of finds on the NCS, NPD noted (Figs. 2-4). A large
proportion of these have been made on acreage awarded in
the country’s four first license rounds.
No discovery has been made on production licenses
awarded in the 21st round or the APA 2011 and 2012 rounds
since it takes time for drilling decisions to be taken and wells
The average finding success rate on the NCS has been rising in line with growing knowledge of its geology and with
technological advances, NPD said. Technical and commercial finding rates have averaged 55% and 40%, respectively,
over the past 15 years.
Not all discoveries will be developed. The NPD has classified some discoveries as unlikely to be produced because they
are not expected to prove commercial, even in the long term.
This type of discovery, known as resource category 6,
contains resources for which substantial changes in technology, costs, and petroleum prices are required if they are to be
brought to commercial production and where such changes
are thought to be unlikely.
Resource category 6 contains 108 discoveries, whose resources are not included in the estimate of total recoverable
resources on the NCS.
Few examples exist of discoveries placed in this category that have subsequently been developed. However, new
nearby discoveries, technological advances, and significant
changes in the price and cost picture could change conditions for commercial development.
North, Norwegian seas
Operators have drilled 615 wildcats on the Norwegian side
of the North Sea since 1965.
North Sea exploratory activity remains high, and about