It’s no secret that the Halbouty Lecture at each AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition is a big draw.
The lecture series is named for the late Michel T. Halbouty, renowned wildcatter extraordinaire.
Wildcatting today is far removed from this legendary oilman’s heyday when prospectors would risk it all, continually chasing what they saw as the next big find.
When it worked, it worked. When it didn’t… well, there was always the next one.
Now, it’s all about teamwork among various experts on geology, engineering and related disciplines. Costs rarely, if ever, are the responsibility of a single player in this often daunting, always expensive game of exploration, which is evolving into an increasingly high-tech arena.
The 2016 Halbouty Lecture series presentation by Tim Dodson, executive vice president of Statoil ASA, will focus on Statoil’s high impact Bay du Nord discovery in the deepwater Flemish Pass Basin in 2013.
Estimated to hold 300 to 600 million barrels of crude oil recoverable, Bay du Nord was hailed as the largest oil discovery worldwide in 2013 once it was announced by Statoil and joint venture partner Husky Energy. The discovery well tapped into light oil tallying 34 degrees on the API scale in high quality Jurassic-age reservoirs having high porosity and permeability.
The find represented Statoil’s third – and largest – discovery in this largely unexplored Basin, which occurs about 300 miles east of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The trio of discoveries, which includes Mizzen and Harpoon, each are in approximately 1,100 meters of water and on separate geological structures within relatively close proximity to one another.
Statoil’s foray into offshore Newfoundland dates back to 1996 – seven years before its first well in the Flemish Pass. Although this well was a disappointment, the company persevered, ultimately reaching the big breakout with the 2013 discovery.
Bay du Nord has been referred to as an “overnight success 17 years in the making.” In other words, the pathway to this big hit was littered with an array of obstacles.
“Drawing on ideas, exploration and production successes from the Norwegian Continental Shelf, the original idea was that many of the same exploration plays could exist in the East Canada offshore basins,” Dodson said. “Given new data and offshore land sales in the Flemish Pass, explorationists early on identified the potential in the Flemish Pass and nearby basins, extending the Jeanne d’Arc plays and the Norwegian experience to the north,” he noted.
It sounds straightforward, but it’s never smooth sailing in these types of endeavors.
Dodson emphasized that even though the Norwegian Continental Shelf ideas applied in principle, the local geological setting in the Flemish Pass provided additional geophysical and geological challenges.
“Identification of a working petroleum system with a working source rock, understanding the reservoir development, and not least the trap and seal system, was critical,” he said.
This environment is rife with operational challenges, including shifting weather conditions, drifting icebergs and deep water.
Statoil, however, has become adept in handling such situations, having acquired vast environmental experience with harsh conditions on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
Dodson offered a capsule summary of the action here overall:
“The exploration history of the Flemish Pass is a story of belief, countercyclical thinking and gradual building of knowledge and database,” he commented. “The Bay du Nord discovery is an example of Statoil’s global way of exploring through execution with rigor, replenishment of the portfolio and by cultivating the exploration culture.”
“The success of Bay du Nord is the result of an ambitious and targeted drilling campaign in the Flemish Pass Basin,” he added.
Given the current challenges faced by the industry, Dodson’s take on worldwide exploration overall is to the point.
“Continuous global exploration work is critical to the sustainability of the oil and gas industry,” he said. “All oil and gas reserves have been found by exploration at one point in time, and persistence and perseverance in this type of work will carry the industry forward.”
“Exploration success depends on access to new areas, new technology and new ideas,” he emphasized. “Plus, there are no short term solutions as exploration history shows that the largest successes have come from a combination of these three factors and patient subsurface work over time. Exploration success over time has come in cycles, and there are no short-term easy solutions.”
Meanwhile, Statoil continues to fine-tune its understanding of the geology and potential of the Flemish Pass Basin as evaluation continues.
Over the course of the last 18 months, the company has overseen an ongoing drilling campaign – appraisals/near field drilling and a few wildcats – in the area, according to Kjersti Tvedt Morstøl, vice president of communications at Statoil in Norway.
Morstøl noted that results related to the campaign will not be available until sometime after mid-June.