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UpstreamOnline: Shell steps it up in Oz drill drive

Supermajor brings in new rig off Australia as part of LNG scheme

RUSSELL SEARANCKE, Wellington

Shell is bringing another deep-water drilling rig into Australia as it steps up its hunt for liquefied natural gas-size discoveries off the north-west coast.

The 2000-foot water depth drillship Frontier Discoverer is on its way to Western Australia where it is earmarked to complete Shell’s 12-well exploration commitment in Block WA-371-P in the Browse basin.

A Shell spokesman confirmed the rig was moving into Australia, but said no final decisions have been made on where the rig will work.

“Various options are being considered with regard to the deployment of the Frontier Discoverer but no decision has been taken,” he said.

The Anglo-Duth supermajor is currently using the semi-submersible Ocean Epoch in Block WA-371-P under a contract that started inNovember 2006 and is to end in early January 2008.

Shell is drilling the seventh exploration well in 100%-owned WA-371-P called Trio-1.

Five of the six previous wells are tight holes––Gigue-1, Bouree-1, Rigaudon-1, Rondo-1 and Fourtissimo-1. One well, Prelude-1, has been confirmed as a commercial gas find.

Shell boss Jeroen Van Der Veer said the Prelude well could potentially be “an extremely important find”, but Shell has given no further details.

Sources said Prelude is thought to be part of the Inpex-operated Ichthys gas and condensate field, but this has not been confirmed.

Van Der Veer previously said: “It is a very impressive new gas resource. It is part of a big field (in the Ichthys area) and it is well-placed for Far East markets.”

Shell may also use the drillship Frontier Discoverer in operated exploration block AC/P41 in the Browse basin that it owns with co-venturer Nexus Energy.

AC/P41 surrounds the Nexus-operated Crux gas and condensate field.

Shell owns the rights to several trillion cubic feet of Crux gas, and would like to add more gas reserves from AC/P41 to underpin a potential LNG development.

Shell Development (Australia) chief operating officer Chris Gunner said previously that Australia “is an important part of our regional and global growth aspirations for gas, and will help us sustain our leading LNG position around the world”.

He added: “The AC/P41 block strengthens our position around the Crux asset and our partnership with Nexus. We have a joint goal of commercialising what looks to be an attractive gas resource.”

AC/P41 is 200 kilometres off the Kimberley coast in the northern part of the Browse basin and covers about 1900 square kilometres.

It is understood Blocks WA-371-P and AC/P41 are the only Shell-operated blocks in the Browse basin.

The company has a substantial exploration position in the Greater Gorgon area lying in the Carnarvon basin but Chevron is the operator.

The Frontier Discoverer, owned by Frontier Drilling, is a conventionally-moored drillship that was upgraded in Singapore before its current long-term contract with Shell.

The drilling unit had originally been scheduled to be working now for Shell in the Beaufort Sea, but a US court blocked that exploration campaign.
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18 October 2007 23:01 GMT  | last updated: 18 October 2007 23:01 GMT

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