Few would argue that the oil and gas industry is an exciting business. For better or worse, the element of surprise plays a big role in maintaining the excitement.
Buzzard Field in the North Sea is a prime example of "for better."
A number of companies passed on the opportunity to test the Buzzard prospect early on, saying it couldn't work geologically, it was too risky to attempt, etc. Besides, the basin where the discovery well ultimately was drilled was too mature for any significant discoveries, according to the naysayers.
But when the first well went down at Buzzard in 2001, it tapped into the biggest find in the North Sea in a decade -- an estimated 1.2 billion barrels of oil-in-place.
The field, which is located in the Outer Moray Firth in 100 meters of water 100 kilometers northeast of Aberdeen, is currently in the development stage. Operator Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd. expects production will commence in 2006 at a rate of 190,000 barrels per day, with approximately 80,000 barrels per day net to Nexen, according to Graham Doré, who until recently was Nexen's senior geologist and a major participant in the Buzzard story.
Partnering in the field with Nexen are Petro-Canada UK Ltd., BG Group, Edinburgh Oil and Gas PLC.
Development infrastructure includes a central production facility incorporating three piled structures, and subsea facilities will deliver injection water to two remote cluster locations. The current plan is to produce the field through 27 production wells.
Reservoir pressure will be maintained via an active waterflood program by re-injection of produced water supplemented by treated sea water when necessary.
John Robbins of Nexen Petroleum UK will present an overall view of Buzzard Field at the Michel T. Halbouty Lecture series fifth anniversary during the 2005 AAPG Convention in Calgary.
The lecture series is designed to showcase either space exploration, which has the potential to impact the ability to develop resources on earth and in the solar system, or wildcat exploration, where major discoveries might contribute significantly to petroleum reserves.
Never Say Never
Doré's intimate involvement in Buzzard from the get-go is a striking example of the wildcatter ethos: unfailing optimism and creative, original thinking that focuses outside the mainstream and more in the unconventional realm.
The lengthy circuitous path he traveled from the initial concept in 1992 to the discovery well is a lesson in patience and perseverance that should encourage explorationists, whether rookie or pro -- particularly in today's environment, where even the mention of rank exploration can trigger anxiety attacks among management types.
Convinced the sands in the Buzzard area harbored a big find even though there were no telling signs geologically, Doré tried to persuade his then-employer to drill, but to no avail.
"There were peers who saw the merit in the play," Doré said, "and management could understand the concepts, but the play itself was seen as very risky. At the end of the day, there were a lot of companies who could have been involved and decided not to purely on a risk basis.
"It was seen as a very risky stratigraphic trap in the Jurassic sands, and they didn't like it."
The field, in fact, is a stratigraphic pinchout with the pinchout toward the sand source, which is unusual for the Jurassic for the North Sea.
"Another unusual thing, it was drilled within a graben within a low rather than a traditional Jurassic trap drilled on a structural high," Doré said, "which is the norm for the most part."
Unwilling to throw in the towel after the initial round of drilling refusals, Doré moved on in 1997, joining PanCanadian (now the U.K. arm of Nexen), which was just setting up shop in the United Kingdom at the time.
"They thought Buzzard was a good idea," Doré said, "and when the next license round came along and the blocks became available to pick up, they agreed to go with it and acquired the acreage in 1999."
Going Outside the Box
Well, you say, this was an impressive find, but that doesn't mean there are others out there.
Doré would argue with that.
"As an explorationist, I'm always optimistic, and you have to believe there's plenty of opportunities to be found still in the North Sea," he said. "Smaller companies are beginning to take advantage of that.
"I feel the same about exploration potential in other parts of the world," Doré said. "It's not cheap to drill high risk, high reward wells, but if companies are willing to take more risk, there are still big finds to be made all over the place."
He offers sound advice to someone new in the industry:
- Don't be confined by the edicts of management focused on low risk-low reward opportunities.
- Think big and be creative.
- Instead of thinking along the conventional route, pay attention to the unconventional.
Despite its impressive size and potential and the unusual geology, there's a bit of simplicity attached to Buzzard, not the least of which is its moniker -- the field was named for Buzzard's Bar in Calgary.
Doré compares the field to an old-fashioned type of discovery.
"It involved fit-for-purpose geophysics and a good geological model," he said. "It didn't involve any AVO work or attribute analysis. It's unusual nowadays for prospects to be drilled without that information."