UK: OGA Launches Licensing Round for Greater Buchan Area. Eyes 300 Million Barrels

Credit: Offshore Energy Today

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The UK’s crude oil production alone increased by 11 percent to 1.08 million bpd in Q1, according to the government statistics quoted by Platts—a welcome sign for the UK oil and gas industry which has managed to reverse a years-long downward trend in recent months, thanks to start-ups of projects in the North Sea.  

OGA said on Thursday that the licensing round presented an opportunity to collaborate and maximize economic recovery of up to 300 million barrels of oil equivalent in the Greater Buchan Area. Situated in the Outer Moray Firth in the North Sea, the area features around 5,800 square kilometers of currently unlicensed acreage, which includes a number of undeveloped discoveries and prospects.

The Buchan field, located in the area, came online in 1981 using the Buchan Alpha floating drilling rig which was on station for around 36 years. The rig which reached the end of its design life has been removed from the location. However, OGA claimed that significant oil and gas resources were estimated to remain in the Buchan reservoir and the Greater Buchan region, making it a valuable area of the North Sea. OGA added that it wanted to develop an Area Plan with the industry to maximize economic recovery of the remaining resources.

The Supplementary Round, announced in October 2018, was supported by an advanced release of substantial information and data, including seismic data packages. OGA is continuing to make more data available and this dataset included well data for 154 wells, 3D seismic surveys, relinquishment, and technical reports. In November 2018, OGA said that the Supplementary Round attracted 36 applications covering 164 blocks in the area.

Andy Samuel, chief executive of the OGA, stated: “There’s been excellent interest in the Greater Buchan Area. There’s much to play for from exploration through to development opportunities. We are encouraging prospective operators to look beyond individual opportunities and actively partner with other companies to establish a mutually beneficial Area Plan realizing the full economic potential in the area.”

The next round, the 32nd Offshore Licensing Round, is planned to open in the summer of 2019 and will focus on mature areas of the UKCS. According to the UK Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, provisional figures for 2018 showed that UK crude oil and NGL production rose by 8.9 percent compared to 2017, mainly due to multiple new projects on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) coming online in late 2017 and 2018 and increasing production through the year.

In November of 2018, BP and its co-venturers started up production at the giant Clair Ridge project in the West of Shetland region offshore UK. The project is targeting 640 million barrels of oil reserves and is expected to have peak production of 120,000 bpd. The UK’s petroleum reserves remain at a significant level, with overall remaining recoverable reserves and resources ranging from 10 to 20 billion barrels plus of oil equivalent, according to the UK Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). Currently proven and probable reserves on the UKCS can sustain production for another 20 years.

The UKCS yielded 20 percent more oil and gas in the last five years after 14 consecutive years of production declines, the industry’s association, Oil & Gas UK, said in its latest annual Business Outlook earlier this year. Exploration in the UK’s North Sea is definitely picking up and this year could see the drilling of up to 15 new wells, the association added. This is momentum that needs to be maintained, the association noted, as expectations were for another decline in production to begin after 2020.