ABERDEEN, UK – The Faroese Earth and Energy Directorate (Jardfeingi) is looking to rekindle interest in exploration offshore the Faroe Islands.

In May, the Faroese government announced it would open the islands’ 4th Licensing Round in 2017. Currently the same areas offered under the previous rounds – east and south of the islands – are likely to be made available, although this has yet to be rubber-stamped.

Of the nine wells drilled to date offshore the islands, most have been relatively close to the various discoveries west of Shetland in UK waters. Six have encountered oil or gas in varying degrees: although none have so far proven to be commercial, the results have confirmed that an active hydrocarbon system is present, said Jardfeingi director Petur Joensen.

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The most promising result to date remains Amerada Hess’ Marjun oil discovery from 2001 which is deemed a technical discovery. DONG Energy, the current license holder, has an ongoing program to reappraise Marjun, Joensen said.

Among the other wells, Eni’s on the Annemarie structure intersected  400 m (1,312 ft) gross of gas within three intervals, but no reservoir, while the Svinoy well drilled in 2001-3 encountered light oil.

However, the disappointing results and the high costs of drilling in the region have caused most of the participants to relinquish their acreage, notably Statoil and ExxonMobil.

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Statoil’s last well, on the deepwater Brugdan structure, was also the most northerly off the islands to date. It had to be suspended for the winter season, and following re-entry, the partners opted to terminate operations prior to reaching the target after struggling to drill through hard rock and shales underneath.

One of the main problems in this part of the North Atlantic is the widespread layer of basalt and the difficulties in imaging below this level. Imaging techniques have improved, but there is still a long way to go, Joensen admitted.

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In 2013, Chevron’s Lagavulin well, drilled in more than 1,500 m (4,921 ft) of water on the UK side, was abandoned after encountering oil but no workable reservoir system – and a huge expanse of basalt.

However, some geophysical contractors remain interested in clarifying the region’s prospectivity. According to Malan Ellefsen, a geologist at the Faroese Ministry of Trade and Industry, there have been talks with Spectrum on processing some of the existing 2D offshore data and integrating that into a 3D grid. Dolphin is also considering a new initiative.

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Schlumberger’s most recent 2D survey in the region was mostly on the UK side, although one line extended into Faroese waters. Resultant data was apparently of good quality, and the company is thought to be confident that its imaging techniques have developed to the extent that it can now detect seals and the base of the basalt.

Earlier studies off the Faroes revealed the presence of numerous other large structures, Joensen added, “which we think should be investigated in more detail.”

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