No One Expected These 2 Massive — And Mature — Discoveries

The old adage in resource exploration is — you need to use old technology in a new area, or new technology in an old area.

And last week we got not one, but two, confirmations that the new technology in old areas route can lead to big discoveries. 

The first came in offshore Egypt. Where Italian major Eni announced that exploratory drilling had discovered a “supergiant” natural gas field. Which could contain over 30 trillion cubic feet of reserves. 

That would make the field the largest ever discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. And the new discovery — called Zohr — could in fact turn out to be in one of the largest in the world.

The offshore Egyptian waters aren’t hyper-mature, the way the U.S. Gulf of Mexico is — with the Zohr discovery well being drilled to a relatively moderate depth of 1,450 meters. 

But there has been a lot of exploration here over the years. And few observers were expecting a discovery of this scale to come within the area.

Fewer expected a new find in completely different part of the world — which last week got approval to develop into one of the biggest new-field operations in Europe. The Culzean discovery in the U.K. North Sea.

Last week, U.K. regulators gave development approval to the massive field, which was discovered by Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk in 2008. 

Maersk — along with partners BP and JX Nippon Oil — will now spend $7.8 billion to develop and operate Culzean. Which is one of the largest discoveries in the North Sea in the last decade, expected to produce up to 500 million cubic feet of natgas per day at its peak — enough to meet 5% of U.K. gas consumption.

This is a true brownfields discovery, being drilled at a depth of 4,500 meters. The field is high-pressure and high-temperature — one of the factors that led to such a long lead time in getting the development permitted.

But with new technology it is going ahead. Showing that big finds are still out there in unexpected places — for developers with the right tools and techniques.

Here’s to making the old new again,

Dave Forest

dforest@piercepoints.com / @piercepoints / Facebook

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