Statoil steps up drilling around Arctic field

The midnight sun has come to the Barents Sea. But there is still a piece of Arctic dark over Statoil's plans in the area.

Working on a development model for the prospective Johan Castberg field, the Norwegian energy company announces two more drilling operations in adjacent waters.

Statoil in 2011 found an estimated 540 million barrels of top-quality oil in the area and has since hectically tried to find additional resources in nearby wells. The company in 2011 called the discoveries a major breakthrough in the Barents Sea and “the most important discoveries on the Norwegian shelf over the last ten years”.

Since then however, only little additional hydrocarbons have been discovered in the area, despite several drilling operations in adjacent waters.

In the course of 2013, Statoil drilled wells at the Kramsnø, Iskrystall and Nunatak prospects without finding any significant volume of oil and gas. In the Skavl well, about 50 million barrels of oil equivalents were found. Also in the latest well, the Drivis, about 50 million barrels was discovered.

Statoil now intends to expand exploration in the area with drilling at the nearby Pingvin and Isfjell structures.

The announcement comes as the company is under increasing pressure, both from the Norwegian government and from the northern Norwegian regions to bring the Castberg oil to land-based facilities.

As previously reported, the disappointing results from the adjacent wells have made Statoil hesitant on how to approach the Castberg project. In 2013, the company said that it was postponing its decision on preferred field concept development. Despite pressure from the politicians, the company has hinted that it prefers a floating offshore development model, and not a landing of the resources.

According to Finnmark Dagblad, the Pingvin and Isfjell wells will be drilled next winter. The development concept for the Castberg project is expected to be announced already in June this year.