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Shell discovers ‘Big Cat’ gas field off Norway coast

The Independent: Shell discovers ‘Big Cat’ gas field off Norway coast

By Michael Harrison, Business Editor

24 May 2005


Shell, the embattled oil giant, won some respite from its woes over dwindling reserves yesterday by announcing a significant gas discovery off the coast of Norway.


The Onyx South West field, in which Shell has a 30 per cent stake, is estimated to contain about 60 billion cubic metres of gas, officially qualifying it as one of the company’s “Big Cat” prospects.


The amount of gas in the field is equivalent to 377 million barrels of oil. To qualify as a Big Cat prospect, Shell’s share of potential production has to be in excess of 100 million barrels.


Shell found sufficient new reserves last year to replace only 15 to 25 per cent of the oil it produced using the strict criteria demanded by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Even under the less onerous UK rules, its reserves replacement ratio was only 45 to 55 per cent against the 100 per cent figure it is targeting over the 2004 to 2008 period.


The Norwegian well is one of several successful wells that Shell has drilled in the first quarter of this year. Others have been in Nigeria, the United States, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Oman.


Rien Herber, Shell’s director of exploration and production for Europe, said following the drilling of an exploration well in Onyx South West “there are indications that we are dealing with a significant find”. An appraisal well is due to be drilled in the area next year.


Shell intends to drill in 15 to 20 fields deemed to have Big Cat potential this year and next, four of which are in Europe, as part of its $1.5bn (£800m) exploration programme. Its partners in Onyx South West are the state-owned Norwegian oil company Statoil with 20 per cent, Petero with 30 per cent and Total of France with 20 per cent.

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