While bigger is always perceived to be better on the road to firsts, there are times when smaller is the best fit. With a suite of oil and gas giants in its portfolio, Equinor brought its smallest and most revolutionary platform onstream in 2018. In July of this year, the company announced the discovery of a 112-m (367-ft) oil column in a segment of its Oseberg Vestflanken Field that had not been previously tested. The well will be put onstream soon via the Norwegian Continental Shelf’s (NCS) first unmanned, remotely operated H platform on the Oseberg Field, a news release stated.
“This discovery improves the Oseberg Vestflanken resource base. It can be put onstream with limited investments and adds significant value to the partnership. We are combining drilling of exploration and production wells to achieve highly profitable exploration wells at low cost,” said Gunnar Nakken, senior vice president for the operations west cluster of Equinor, in the release. “Discoveries as these underline the importance of near-field exploration. Our ambition is to maintain profitable production from the NCS for several decades. A major contribution will come from wells that are drilled at low cost and close to existing infrastructure.”
The 30/6-H-9-T4 exploration extension well was drilled by the Askepott jackup rig as part of the Oseberg Vestflanken 2 project, the release stated. Plans call for the drilling of 11 wells total by the Askepott, with nine being drilled through the platform and two through an existing subsea template.
The Askepott is a GustoMSC CJ70 rig model specifically designed for year-round use in moderate and harsh environments in water depths up to 150 m (492 ft) on the NCS.
The road to the Oseberg H platform started out as a project in 2012 to find a simpler, more cost-effective solution to deliver NCS hydrocarbon resources from below the seafloor to the shore. So Equinor set about delivering a solution dubbed “subsea on a stick” that eventually found a home at Oseberg Vestflanken.
If there were a Hall of Petroleum Giants, then the NCS would have long ago snagged a seat at the hall’s table as it is home to Ekofisk, Statfjord, Oseberg and Snorre, all discovered prior to 1980.
The Equinor team looked to tap into the extensive infrastructure of these aging giants. The Oseberg H platform is fully automatic and remotely operated. There are no living quarters, helicopter decks, lifeboats or toilets on the platform. Operations are tied back to the Oseberg Field Center located 8 km (5 miles) northwest of the platform.
“Oseberg H is a pilot and our first unmanned platform,” said Anders Opedal, Equinor’s executive vice president for technology, projects and drilling, in the release. “We are further developing the concept and believe that the next version will be even more competitive.”