Encouraging Results In Unlucky Waters

BMI View: Results from Providence Resources' latest well in Irish waters are initially encouraging, but the outlook for the country's offshore production remains negative, with a long history of unsuccessful exploration weighing down the sector's outlook, despite a recent uptick in interest from independent and majors alike.

Providence Resources, an Irish independent, released technical results from its Dromberg prospect in the Porcupine Basin, some 220 kilometres (km) from West Cork. Providence, the operator (with an 80% share), and UK-based Sosina Exploration (with a 20% stake) acquired the Dromberg licence as part of the 2011 licensing round.

Seismic data revealed an anomaly with reservoir potential, notably the presence of hydrocarbon-bearing sandstones within a fault system which may act as a cap rock. Mapping shows the anomaly with a vertical extent of 60 to 90 metres (m), and a real extent of 240 square km. The Dromberg prospect was compared to the shallower 43/12-1 well, drilled in 1988 by UK major BP, which encountered 21m of net Apto-Albian sandstone play approximately 80km from Providence's prospect.

Additionally, the results highlighted potential for further discoveries, with evidence of a fault block closure with fluid escape beneath the prospect. This further suggests a hydrocarbons system in the prospect, with potential migration into Providence's Dromberg play. Promisingly, BP's 43/12-1 well had an average porosity of 19%, above the typical 18% required for an economic reservoir. 3D seismic surveys would provide a better understanding of the prospect; however, while initially encouraging, only exploratory drilling will confirm if reservoir pressure is sufficient for commercial production.

Table: 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round
Note: (p) stands for Part Block. Source: BMI, Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Companies Basin Blocks Awarded
Providence: 40% Goban Spur Basin 614/13(p); 61/14; 61/15; 61/18(p); 61/19(p); 61/20; 62/11(p); 62/16(p)
Repsol YPF: 40%
Sosian Exploration: 20%
Antrim Energy: 100% Porcupine Basin 44/4; 44/5(p); 44/9; 44/10; 44/14; 44/15
Bluestack Energy: 100% Porcupine Basin 35/25(p); 35/30; 36/21; 36/26; 44/5(p); 45/1
Europa Oil & Gas: 100% Porcupine Basin 43/9; 43/10; 43/14; 43/15; 54/1; 54/2; 54/6; 54/7
Petrel Resources: 100% Porcupine Basin 35/23; 35/24; 35/25(p); 45/6; 45/11; 45/16
Providence Resources: 32% Porcupine Basin 35/13; 35/14; 35/15; 35/18; 35/19; 35/20
Chrysaor: 58%
Sosina Exploration: 10%
Providence Resources: 80% Porcupine Basin 52/5; 52/10; 52/15; 53/1; 53/6; 53/11
Sosina Exploration: 20%
Two Seas Oil & Gas Porcupine Basin 34/19; 34/20; 34/24; 34/25; 35/16; 35/21
Serica Energy: 100% Rockall Basin 11/5; 11/;10; 11/15; 12/1; 12/6; 12/11(p)
Providence Resources: 66.66% Slyne-Erris Trough 18/25(p); 18/30
First Oil Expro: 33.33%
San Leon Energy: 100% Slyne-Erris Trough 27/13; 27/14; 27/19; 27/24

Unlucky Irish Waters

Providence Resources has been at the forefront of revived interest in upstream exploration in Ireland. The Irish upstream segment has a disappointing history (see accompanying chart), and several decades' worth of offshore drilling has yet to yield commercial oil reserves, although some gas discoveries have been made. Exploration in the Celtic Sea, in particular, has been stymied by geological structures that are 'small and fractured,' according to Fergus Cahill, chairman of the Irish Offshore Operators' Association (IA).

In the same licensing round in which Providence was awarded the Dromberg prospect, Ireland awarded some 13 offshore exploration licences to firms in including Spain's Respol and San Leon Energy. Larger geologic structures in the Porcupine Basin present more promising prospects, allowing the potential of some surprise to the upside.

Government estimates of reserves in the Irish Atlantic Margin are up to 10bn barrels of oil equivalent (boe), and the once maligned Irish waters have succeeded in attracting US major ExxonMobil and Italy's Eni. However, an absence of infrastructure, difficult operating conditions, and high costs were all cited as principal risks to offshore exploration and production (E&P) by the IA. BMI has reported on the delays associated with the Anglo-Dutch major Royal Dutch Shell's Corrib gas project, which the IA cited as further weighing down the country's offshore prospects ( see our online service, March 28 2011, 'Shell Secures Final Permit For Corrib In Boost To Irish Gas Supply Outlook,').

Unlucky Waters Continue To Charm
Wells Drilled Offshore Ireland Since 1971
This article is tagged to:
Sector: Oil & Gas
Geography: Ireland

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