North Sea industry seeks to tap into '˜small pools'

The regulator for the North Sea industry has highlighted the 'very significant' potential of more than three billion barrels of oil waiting to be tapped in UK waters.

More than three billion barrels of oil remain untapped in the North Sea, according to the OGA. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
More than three billion barrels of oil remain untapped in the North Sea, according to the OGA. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The Aberdeen-based Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) said the bulk of some 350 unsanctioned discoveries across the UK continental shelf (UKCS) were defined as “small pools” – those with technically recoverable reserves of fewer than 50 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Many of these pools are located within potential drilling reach of existing infrastructure, but a number lie further away and would need stand-alone solutions to be tapped.

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The analysis was developed by the OGA as part of the small pools work group from its technology leadership board (TLB), supported by the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI), producers Centrica and EnQuest and the Industry Technology Facilitator.

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Carlo Procaccini, the OGA’s head of technology, said: “We recognise the challenges operators are facing to develop these marginal oil and gas accumulations. Small pools represent a very significant opportunity to maximise economic recovery from the UKCS.”

He added: “Technology has an important role to play to reduce the cost of development wells, design optimised subsea infrastructure to existing host facilities and develop efficient standalone concepts.

“We are committed to working together with the industry, the TLB and the new Oil & Gas Technology Centre, which has dedicated one of their solution centres to unlock the small pools potential.”

The OGA study follows a series of “hackathons” last year, backed by the NSRI, which saw about 100 companies take part to come up with ideas to help with unlocking the potential of small pools.

NSRI project director Gordon Drummond said small pools were of “national importance” in terms of maximising economic recovery from the North Sea and must be considered as an “industry asset”.

He added: “Following an extensive mapping exercise, we now know exactly where these small pools are located and what is required to unlock their potential. If the subsea industry can rise to the challenge of economically tapping into these pools, the North Sea could have a whole new lease of life.

“Technology is only part of the solution; the industry must be much more receptive to innovation – there must be a willingness to work more collaboratively on multi-field applications and on access to infrastructure.”