A resource assessment of the southeastern Barents Sea offshore Norway and the area surrounding Jan Mayen Island northeast of Iceland indicates a 15% increase in estimated undiscovered resources on the Norwegian Continental Shelf to 390 million standard cu m of oil equivalent, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said.
The mapping exercise that led to the increased estimate was a step in the authorities’ process to open these areas for oil and gas exploration. However, NPD noted that Iceland has the right of use for parts of the shelf surrounding Jan Mayen and has already awarded licenses.
In the southeastern Barents, NPD mapped a 44,000 sq km area along the Russian sea boundary and estimated the potential resource at 300 million standard cu m with an uncertainty range of 55-565 standard cu m. The area is gas prone and only about 15% of the resource should be oil, NPD said.
The Bjarmeland platform farthest north and the Fedinsky high to the east are considered to be pure gas provinces, while the Nordkapp basin, Tiddlybank basin, and Finnmark platform are considered to be combined oil and gas provinces. Gas on the Fedinsky high could span the Norway-Russian border, NPD noted.
NPD found reason to believe that source rocks are present that have formed sufficient volumes of gas but that source rocks that form oil are not present to the same extent.
Geological knowledge of the southeastern Barents is relatively limited because no exploratory wells have been drilled and shallow scientific drilling has not yet been carried out. However, a number of wells have been drilled in the open part of the southern Barents Sea, both scientific, shallow stratigraphic wells, and commercial exploratory wells.
Literature also reveals some data from drilling carried out in the Russian Barents. Seismic data acquired in 2011 and 2012 and other geological data from the Barents provide a good basis for estimating the undiscovered petroleum resources in the southeastern Barents, NPD said.
In the opened part of the Barents Sea and the northern Barents Sea, the expected figure for undiscovered resources is 960 million standard cu m of oil equivalent, or 37% of the undiscovered resource on the Norwegian Shelf.
NPD said, “The new resource estimates for the southeastern Barents Sea increase the estimate of total undiscovered resources in the area by about one-third and strengthen the Barents Sea’s significance for Norwegian petroleum activities.”
The northeastern Barents Sea, which is also part of the new Norwegian Sea area, is almost as large as the southern part. The NPD acquired seismic data there in summer 2012 and will continue in 2013. The resource figure from this area will further increase the estimate of the undiscovered resource.
Meanwhile, seismic and aeromagnetic data and numerous source rock samples have been acquired in recent years in parts of the 100 000 sq km area that may be opened around Jan Mayen Island. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the area’s potential compared with the southeastern Barents due to the lack of drilling around Jan Mayen.
NPD estimated the expected resource in the Jan Mayen area at 90 million standard cu m of oil equivalent with a possible considerable upside of as much as 460 million standard cu m, but it said the lower end of the estimates indicate that it is uncertain whether any hydrocarbons will be found.
Uncertainty could be reduced if a discovery were made. The expected resource in the area will increase to 200 million standard cu m with an upside of 640 million standard cu m and a downside of 20 million standard cu m.
The sea areas surrounding Jan Mayen are included in the opening process border with the Greenlandic shelf to the west and the Icelandic shelf to the south. Geologically, the Jan Mayen area consists of the volcanic island Jan Mayen and the subsea Jan Mayen ridge that runs southward from the island. The Jan Mayen Ridge is surrounded by oceanic crust which was formed as the North Atlantic Sea opened up.
The process of forming a new oceanic crust started in the area about 55 million years ago and is still taking place, NPD said. This was how the Jan Mayen ridge was separated from Norway and Greenland and remained out in the ocean as a microcontinent. The Jan Mayen ridge is therefore expected to consist of the same continental and marine rocks that can be found in eastern Greenland and on the Norwegian shelf in the Norwegian Sea, with possible oil and gas potential.