Statoil drilling Martin prospect in deepwater Gulf of Mexico
PRAMOD KULKARNI, Editor
MAERSK DEVELOPER, Gulf of Mexico – As part of an ambitious effort to expand its E&P portfolio in North America, Statoil is midway through drilling a wildcat well as an operator in deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
Statoil is using the Maersk Developer, a 6th-generation semisubmersible, to drill its wildcat well on the Martin prospect across Blocks 717, 718 and 761 in Mississippi Canyon area, about 100 mi from New Orleans. Installed at 3,000-ft water depth, the well has completed about 20,000 ft of hole and is expected to reach TD during the third-quarter of 2014.
A supply vessel delivers casing to the Maersk Developer at the Martin prospect in deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
Statoil is fairly confident of success at Martin. Fields under production the area include Mars and Ursa (Shell) and Thunderhorse (BP), which are some of the largest producing fields in the Gulf of Mexico. For Martin, Statoil is the operator (42.5%) with partners Nexen (25%) and LLOG (26%). After the Martin, one of the prospects Statoil is planning to drill is Perseus, after receiving all the required approvals and permits.
At this time, Statoil is producing 25,000 bopd from two of its non-operated assets in the Gulf of Mexico: Caesar Tonga (Anadarko) and Tahiti (Chevron). Statoil is also partnering with several majors and independents on upcoming projects: Chevron (Jack-St Malo, Big Foot), Shell (Vito), Exxon Mobil (Julia) and Anadarko (Heidelberg).
“With our combined operated and non-operated assets, we expect to increase our share of production from the Gulf of Mexico to 120,000 bopd by 2020,” explained Jason Nye, Sr. Vice President, U.S. Offshore, during a press tour of the Maersk Developer on June 4.
Statoil’s presence in North America began in 1987 with an oil trading operation in New York. E&P activity opened up with Garden Banks in deepwater Gulf of Mexico (2004), Canadian oil sands (2007) and Alaska (2008).
The company also ventured into the shale plays with a partnership with Chesapeake in Marcellus and Talisman in the Eagle Ford in 2008. Statoil became an operator in the Bakken in 2011 after acquiring Brigham Oil, followed by operatorships in both Marcellus and Eagle Ford.
The challenges for Statoil in the Gulf of Mexico include geological uncertainty, which makes pore-pressure prediction quite challenging; small margin between pore pressure and fracture gradients that could create well integrity issues; and drilling through salt. “Water depth is not a critical issue in the Gulf of Mexico,” explained Uno Holm Rognli, Vice President of Drilling and Wells for U.S. Offshore. “But salt can be challenging as the well enters and exits the layer.”
The salt layer at the Martin well is about 1,500 ft, but in other areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the salt thickness can be as much as 15,000 ft. In the North Sea, Statoil is used to drilling typical wells to 10,000 ft and 15,000-ft HPHT wells, but typical deepwater Gulf of Mexico wells reach 30,000 ft.
Rognli said Statoil is implementing several new technologies to improve safety and efficiency. “The innovations include early kick detection (EKD) system to detect a kick early while drilling, a smart flowback system to detect abnormal flow, and an ECD management (ECDM) system to manage bottomhole pressure by controlling mud level with a riser pump,” explained Rognli. The ECDM is Statoil’s less complex, but reliable variation on dual-gradient drilling.
“Statoil is pleased to have a balanced portfolio in the Gulf of Mexico,” suggested Tore Loseth, Vice President of Exploration for Statoil. “Our prospects range from the Miocene to the Paleogene. We have current production, and several major fields will be producing over the next three years. North America offers us high-potential and high-value prospects that you don’t see elsewhere in the world. Martin one of our top-tier prospects.”