No oil in Norway’s northernmost drilling area

Equinor’s search for oil in the Barents Sea continues not to live up to expectations.

A star-crossed roughneck (Ole Jørgen Bratland, Equinor)

Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor has drilled its second dry well in the country’s northernmost license area, in a part of the Barents Sea that borders Russian territory.

Equinor has great expectations for the remote license block, but the well, located at 74 degrees north latitude, has been permanently plugged and abandoned, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).

The well had been drilled 784 feet (239 meters) below the surface of the Barents Sea, reaching a depth of 14,000 feet.

Equinor will now proceed with drilling in the license area located further west in the Barents Sea.

[For Norway’s next big oilfield, size isn’t everything]

Equinor drilled its first well at Korpfjell in the summer of 2017. At that time, expectations were high. This was new acreage on the Norwegian continental shelf, opened up for exploration in 2011 after Norway and Russia came to terms on their maritime boundary.

Analysts believed the Korpfjell could hold up to 10 billion barrels of oil, which would make it an “elephant,” a field with huge resources.

Bente Nyland, the head of the NPD, had herself said that the data from seismic mapping of the area had given her “stars in her eyes.”

Jez Averty, Equinor’s head of exploration in Norway and the United Kingdom, said in 2017 that the area was of special interest.

“Korpfjell is a structure of a size seldom seen on the Norwegian continental shelf and has attracted much interest, and the results of the first well in this frontier area of the Barents Sea have triggered broad and strong expectations.”

Drilling results, however, were disappointing. Equinor, then called Statoil, found only small volumes of natural gas in the well. This year’s result adds to the disappointment.

License area Korpfjell is located 260 miles (420 km) north of the Norwegian mainland and only 30 miles away from the Russian maritime border. 

Less than 300 miles to the northwest is the Svalbard archipelago and 350 miles to the east is Russia’s Novaya Zemlya.