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Lloyds List: UK gives all-clear to three new gas platforms in southern North Sea

Shell’s wind- and solar-powered design gets green light, writes Martyn Wingrove, Lloyds List: Published: Apr 03, 2007

BRITAIN’S Department of Trade and Industry has approved the construction of three gas platforms in the southern North Sea to boost the nation’s offshore output in 2008, writes Martyn Wingrove .

Secretary of State Alistair Darling has given the green light to the development of Shell’s Caravel and Shamrock fields and ConocoPhillips’ Kelvin project that will involve three wellhead platforms installed in the fourth quarter.

All three fields are in the southern sector, where gas production is in decline, and should add 340bn cu ft of gas reserves to the UK’s reserves. They are all due on line by December this year to boost UK output during the winter period.

‘North Sea production remains critical to the UK’s energy needs. The approval of these fields takes the total number of offshore oil and gas developments in the North Sea’s 40-year history to 350,’ said Mr Darling.

Shell, with partner ExxonMobil, is developing Caravel and Shamrock with two four-slot wellhead platforms, which will be linked to its existing infrastructure.

Gas from Shamrock will be piped to Caravel and then will be sent to the nearby Corvette platform and co-mingled with gas from the Brigantine field before being exported to the Bacton terminal.

Shell is planning to install two Trident monotower-designed platforms, which will include renewable energy power generation systems including wind turbines and solar panels. These will be used to power the facilities, reducing the need for laying an umbilical line and keeping development costs down.

‘Using the latest technology Shell is able to recover smaller gas accumulations. These fields will be developed with unmanned monotower platforms similar to the Cutter and K17 fields,’ said a Shell spokesman.

‘This award-winning design is environmentally friendly, powered by the renewable technology of wind and solar energy, and some 40% more cost-effective to build than a traditional offshore platform.’

ConocoPhillips is working with Gaz de France and Tullow Oil to develop the Kelvin field with a two-well slot unmanned platform.

The minimum facilities unit will be tied back to the Murdoch field platform, where gas will be transported to the Theddlethorpe gas terminal. Kelvin may also be used in future as a hub for nearby satellite fields.

Meanwhile, US major Chevron is expected to begin front-end engineering and design work on the Mariner heavy oil field in the UK central sector in the third quarter.

The California-based group is evaluating options for producing Mariner’s viscous crude and is expected to decide on installing a fixed steel platform this year before submitting its development plan to the DTI by January 2008.

Nautical Petroleum, a 26.7% partner in Mariner, said the field has gross recoverable reserves of 82m barrels and has been highly appraised by 16 wells, plus there is a lower prospect that may hold 51m barrels.

‘Chevron has a keen heavy oil policy so it will go ahead with Mariner’s development. There will be a mid-year tender for FEED and there will be a site survey this summer,’ said Nautical’s chief executive Steve Jenkins.

He believes it will take at least 36 months from project sanction to get first oil so the platform may not come on stream until 2011, when it may have capacity to produce around 50,000 barrels per day.

Nautical’s active drilling programme this year may lead to its first North Sea field development, especially if the Kraken appraisal well and sidetrack are successful.

Mr Jenkins said the well in block 9’2b should be drilled in the third quarter by AGR using the Bredford Dolphin semi-submersible.

If it is successful, then Nautical, and partner SK Corp, will push to develop the field with subsea wells tied back to a floating production storage and offloading unit by 2010, he added. If the London-based independent wants to develop Kraken then its management will be seeking project debt finance for its 45% share of the costs.

Also this year, Nautical intends to drill an appraisal well on the 130m barrel Mermaid prospect in block 9’11c, south of Mariner with the Bredford Dolphin.

Nautical is also in with Canadian firm Oilexco in the Catcher prospect, which could be drilled before the end of this year.

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