Conoco makes UK North Sea discovery

Conoco and partner Chevron plan to drill an appraisal well later this year on their new Kappa oil and gas discovery in the UK sector of the North Sea. The well cut a 150-ft hydrocarbon column and was logged, but not tested.

Conoco Inc., Houston, has announced a new oil and natural gas discovery in the UK sector of the North Sea. Known as the Kappa discovery, the find is on Block 15/29b and extends into Block 21/4a-North.

Conoco UK Ltd. General Manager John Williams said the discovery well cut a 150-ft hydrocarbon column and was logged but not tested. An appraisal well is planned late this year to determine economic viability.

Nearby discoveries suggest the oil will be sweet and light, says Conoco. Williams said the company is optimistic about the likelihood of commercial development.

The discovery is in the central North Sea about 125 miles northeast of Aberdeen and about 10 miles from Britannia gas field, which is operated by the Conoco-Chevron Corp. joint venture Britannia Operator Ltd.

Conoco officials said they employed a new exploration approach, recently adopted in the UK by both industry and government, which reduces drilling costs by 30%, on average. Using advanced geophysical techniques, Conoco created seismic images of the prospect, which indicated the presence of hydrocarbons. Conoco then drilled what is called a "finder well" in the UK, which is designed to confirm the presence of hydrocarbons at a minimum cost.

The finder well approach saves money by deferring testing and evaluation until an appraisal well is drilled, says a Conoco official. It is now possible to use this technique in the UK North Sea because of a recent change in UK regulations.

"The North Sea, which is a mature exploration province, has the potential for many more productive years, provided we get the cost base right," said Williams. The finder well approach "is helping us do just that. As a result, we saved time and money," he said.

The Kappa exploration well was drilled by the semisubmersible rig Drillstar to a depth of 7,024 ft in the Late Palaeocene Forties sandstone during October and November 1999. It has been plugged and abandoned while the company evaluates the find.

Operator Conoco UK holds 80% and 86.3% interests in Blocks 15/29b and 21/4a-North, respectively. Chevron UK Ltd. holds 20% and 13.7%.

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