Commercial production of hydrocarbon from fractured crystalline basement is well documented, with petroleum basins across the globe hosting fractured basement fields. The UK is an anomaly within this global phenomenon as, despite numerous serendipitous discoveries of basement oil in the North Sea and the West of Shetlands, there is currently no commercial field on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) that is reliant on oil production from fractured basement. Recognizing that this situation presented an exploration niche, Hurricane Energy plc (Hurricane) was formed to focus on UKCS basement exploration and concentrated its efforts in acquiring exploration acreage in the West of Shetlands. In 2009 Hurricane drilled the first well designed to explore the basement play on the UKCS, leading to the Lancaster Discovery with a contingent resource range (1C–3C) of 62–456 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMboe). The Lancaster Discovery is presented to summarize the challenges and processes that have been applied in the exploration and evaluation of the West of Shetlands basement play. Conclusions from this work indicate that basement hydrocarbon resource potential is of such significance that it may represent a strategic resource for the UK, with over 1154 MMboe of 2C and mean unrisked prospective resources so far identified.
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This volume addresses the challenges facing explorers and developers alike in a region that is becoming a major focus of the petroleum industry in the United Kingdom, Faroes and North Norway. Several West of Shetland fields are still in the appraisal phase almost a decade after discovery. Sub-volcanic exploration risks remain high: sub-volcanic structural traps are imaged poorly, and so the geophysical community is responding with the application of latest technology. The more simple reservoirs might not be large enough to prompt informed and speedy development decisions; larger fields might have a combination of complexities, requiring a phased approach to the development. Infrastructure has been slow to arrive and planned developments have been subject to dramatic swings in fiscal regime ranging from special allowances to unexpected tax increases.
Environmental challenges are significant when moving into more remote, deeper water. The perception of these challenges by the third parties has become much more acute. To sustain its right to operate, the industry has to demonstrate safe drilling operations and appropriate response capability with government agencies.