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Abstract

The Merganser Field is located in the East Central Graben of the UK Central North Sea, and consists of a gas/condensate column trapped in a structural attic on the flanks of a fully penetrating salt diapir. A large salt overhang obscures the field and structural definition is challenging owing to poor seismic imaging. Exploration drilling established a column of 1327 ft in Paleocene-aged deep-marine deposits of the Forties, Andrew and Maureen Sandstone members, and revealed significant geological complexity. Depositional styles record the relationship between salt tectonics and sedimentation, with variable reservoir distribution influenced by halo-kinetically induced palaeorelief and accommodation space. Re-mobilization of sediments is observed at multiple scales, and includes centimetre-scale de-watering structures, decimetre-scale sand injectites and kilometre-scale olistoliths. Whilst the hydrocarbon properties are consistent, contact depths are variable. Pressure data indicate compartmentalization across the field, which is likely to be caused by either radial faulting or hydrodynamic effects. Owing to the magnitude of subsurface uncertainty, the Merganser discovery could not sustain the investment required for standalone facilities. The development of the neighbouring Scoter Field provided the requisite local infrastructure to progress Merganser into production. The Field Development Plan (FDP) estimated recovery of 100 bscf gas and 3 mmstb condensate, and focused on delivering a low-cost development solution consisting of two horizontal wells and a subsea tie-back that would be robust against the downside, yet maintain flexibility to optimize in an upside outcome. Pilot holes were drilled to establish top reservoir with the subsequent horizontal well trajectories being re-designed to reflect structural geometry. The reservoir sections would maximize connectivity between fault compartments and stratigraphic units, and positioning was optimized with well-site biostratigraphy. Each reservoir section exceeds 4000 ft and maintains at least 1000 ft vertical stand-off from the gas/water contact. The facilities include a 5 km subsea tie back to the Scoter production manifold, with metering at the Merganser manifold for allocation purposes. Gas and condensate are commingled with Scoter, and transported 11 km to Shearwater for processing. The gas is transported onshore through the Shearwater Elgin Area Line and condensate through the Forties Pipeline System to Kinneil. Field performance to date has exceeded the FDP P50 both in terms of daily rate and cumulative production. Early production rates peaked at 100 mmscf/day of gas and 6000 stb/day of condensate and, to end-2014, Merganser has produced 161 bcf of gas and 10 mmstb condensate. This performance is due to a combination of better than expected connectivity, high reservoir kh, lower draw-down afforded by long horizontal wells and compression at the Shearwater platform. Subsurface uncertainties prior to development were considerable and the ‘appraisal through development’ strategy has demonstrated that success is achievable through meticulous planning and scenario analysis.

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