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Wintershall bucks trend and looks to expansionGerman player forging ahead with plans for Norway, Denmark and Netherlands

German player Wintershall is pushing ahead with development projects in Northern Europe as part of a drive to expand its international production. The company is working on plans to bring its Maria and Skarfjell discoveries off Norway on stream, and also has oil development plans in Denmark and the Netherlands. At a time when many oil companies are paring back investments in the face of rising industry costs, Wintershall has no such plans for its ongoing projects, Martin Bachmann, head of the company’s exploration and production activities, told Upstream. “We said a few years ago that we would invest up to €2 billion by 2015, and we are on track with that. It is also still true that we want to grow further from there,” Bachmann said. The figure covers investments in Norway and the northern part of the UK sector. 

Of Wintershall’s operated projects, Maria is the most mature after the licence group decided on a development concept in November. The 130 million-barrel oilfield is set to be produced via subsea equipment tied back to four existing installations in the Haltenbanken area of the Norwegian Sea. The aim is to hand in a plan for development and production to the authorities late this year, leading to first oil in 2018, said Bachmann. Meanwhile the company continues exploring in the area, with the ongoing Solberg appraisal well east of Maria and a planned wildcat, Imsa, about 30 kilometres to the south west. Farther south, Wintershall is kicking off development planning for the Skarfjell oil and gas discovery. An appraisal well completed in January confirmed a large gas cap, lifting resources there to between 120 million and 230 million barrels of oil equivalent.

“We are setting up a team to start development planning for Skarfjell. A tie-back to Gjoa would be an obvious solution, or a standalone together with some of the other discoveries in the area,” said Bachmann. Licensees at a number of other discoveries, such as Statoil-operated astero and RWE Dea-operated Titan, have discussed options for some time, and Norwegian authorities are keen to see area solutions that can help bring more discoveries on stream.

Either way, Skarfjell is likely to be a phased development, focusing first on the oil and later on the gas, said Bachmann. In parallel with the development planning, several operators are exploring more in the area near Skarfjell. Statoil is currently drilling a wildcat near Astero named Juv with Wintershall as a partner, while RWE Dea is about to spud an appraisal at the Titan oil discovery. The German company is also looking at options in the southern part of the North Sea, where it is a long-standing operator off Germany and the Netherlands. The most recent discovery, F17-10 in Dutch waters, is an oil discovery with potential volumes of at least 30 million barrels with a considerable upside, said Bachmann. “If the size is confirmed by the drilling, we are talking about a stand-alone development. “We have started looking at options for early development,” he said. 

Wintershall plans to drill two appraisals and three wildcats near the Dutch discovery this year, in addition to another five operated and non-operated wells off the Netherlands. The same play that proved successful in the Netherlands will also be tested in Denmark at the operated Chabazite prospect later this year. Wintershall is also looking at a possible development of the Danish Ravn and Hibonite discoveries, said Bachmann. Looking further ahead, the company is eager to get a bigger bite of the emerging Barents Sea plays, where new discoveries in the past two years have whetted companies’ appetite for Norway’s northernmost frontier in the ongoing 23rd licensing round. “We are very keen. We have a significant team looking at it and we have a pretty clear idea of where we see prospectivity,” said Bachmann. “Opening up new areas does take time, and you need to go in at an early stage to understand what you have got and see what the options are.” 

Source: Upstream, February 28, 2014, by BEATE SCHJOLBERG 

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