Nfld. & Labrador

Statoil 'disappointed' with reduced prospects for Bay du Nord discovery

The assessment of a 19-month Statoil drilling program in Newfoundland's offshore is continuing, but the company says it has made two discoveries in the Bay du Nord area.

Bay du Nord volume at lower end of 300 and 600 million barrel estimate

The West Hercules semi-submersible drilled nine wells for Statoil in 19 months. The Norwegian company confirmed it found recoverable oil at two sites. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The results from a 19-month offshore drilling program in Newfoundland and Labrador are being greeted with some cautious optimism.

Statoil announced on Friday morning it has made two new discoveries in the Bay du Nord area, confirming an earlier estimate of 300 to 600 million barrels of recoverable oil in the area.

Orjan Birkeland, a vice-president at Statoil, said the recoverable amount is at the lower end of that original estimate, but the campaign was good news for his company.

"Of course we are disappointed that we are at the lower end of our prediction," he said Friday. "We still think that the Flemish Pass has a very interesting potential, so we will continue our activity in this area."

Statoil's drilling sites are shown in the Flemish Pass Basin. (Statoil)

No firm timelines

Statoil wrapped up its drilling program last month, with the West Hercules semi-submersible returning to Bay Bulls on May 24.

Nine wells were drilled near the Bay du Nord discovery about 500 kilometres off St. John's, and the company confirmed its two new oil discoveries are near that site.

Birkeland said there was still a lot of assessment to do on the project, and there were no firm schedules for commercial operations to begin — if they start at all.

"So there's a lot of pieces in this puzzle that need to be in place," he noted.

Hope for Flemish Pass

Both Statoil and NOIA — the province's offshore oil industrial association — are optimistic about the future of the Flemish Pass basin.

Statoil has invested heavily in the area, and Birkeland said it will keep going.

NOIA president and CEO Bob Cadigan said with a continuing 3D imaging program, and only a few potential sites drilled so far, there's reason to believe work will continue in the area.

"Certainly, we like to see estimates come in higher than the original estimates. But if not Bay du Nord, we expect that certainly our next development will come from the Flemish Pass basin," he said.

The provincial government also heralded the results of the survey, adding in a news release that the Flemish Pass has seen an "impressive success ratio for a frontier basin."

The government said more than a dozen wells have been drilled, and five oil discoveries were announced in the area.

With files from Meghan McCabe