Azinor Catalyst’s Partridge and Statoil’s Verbier wells were each targeting over 100mmbbls in well drilled areas of the North Sea and were rare examples of exploration in the region with independent involvement. Jersey Oil and Gas (JOG) held 18%WI in Verbier, having successfully attracted Statoil to farm-in to its original 60% WI in 2016, while Azinor held a 100% WI in Partridge (subject to back in options with third parties).
The 14/11a-2 well on Partridge encountered excellent quality reservoir rocks, but did not find hydrocarbons. The well had been targeting the Lower Cretaceous Scapa sandstone, which is a proven oil prone reservoir at the nearby Athena and Scapa fields. The prospect was a basin floor fan system and had been identified on broadband 3D seismic acquired in 2013. Partridge was a structurally controlled stratigraphic trap and prior to drilling the key risks were thought to be around the source and the seal. Despite not finding hydrocarbons, the presence of better than anticipated sands de-risks the wider potential of the Lower Cretaceous play, with Azinor holding two licences adjacent to Partridge that it picked up in the recent UK 29th licensing round. In particular, a number of Lower Cretaceous prospects, known as ‘the Birds’ sit in P2317 and are believed to have a lower source risk than Partridge as they sit closer to a source kitchen. Partridge was drilled for less than $10m and Azinor benefited from transactions with two parties (one a major) which reduced its capital exposure further. The well was therefore extremely attractive on a $/bbl basis.
Like Azinor, JOG was taking a fresh look at a mature area of the North Sea. The 20/05b-13 Verbier well was located to the north west of the Buchan field and targeted an Upper Jurassic turbidite fan system identified on 3D. JOG believed that the edge of Verbier could have been tagged by the Talisman operated 20/5a-10Y well which produced 4804bopd and 2.6mmscfd from Late Jurassic sands of an equivalent age to the sands in Verbier. The prospect was a combination structural/stratigraphic trap, so that the key risk was seal. Evaluation of data from the well indicates however that hydrocarbons may be present up dip of 20/05b-13, and a sidetrack targeting this is now being drilled.
Partridge and Verbier were both material opportunities, and, although neither has found oil to date, both companies demonstrated that, with the right prospect, majors are willing to come in on wells in the North Sea.