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Undiscovered Petroleum Resources in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea


One of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate's (NPD) most important tasks is to produce estimates of undiscovered resources on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS). The NPD has access to all petroleum data from the NCS, and accordingly possesses the best basis for preparing an independent and well-qualified estimation of the total resource potential. Exploration activity in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea started in 1980. After some gas discoveries in the beginning, further exploration was disappointing and the activity level decreased throughout the next decades. However, during the last years’ successful exploration drilling discoveries such as 7220/8–1 and 7220/7–1 Johan Castberg, 7324/8–1 “Wisting” and 7120/1–3 “Gohta” have been proved. Due to these discoveries exploration activity in the Barents Sea has reached new all-time high and new petroleum provinces are now being explored and gives new geological knowledge of the area. After the treaty with Russia on maritime delimitation and collaboration in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean came into force in 2011, work began on a process to open the new area towards the Russian boarder for petroleum activities. The NPD has mapped the geology of the area, covering approximately 44 000 km3, and estimated its resource potential. No wells are drilled in this area so far. Nevertheless, a number of wells have been drilled in the previously open part of the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea west of this new area. Five large regional geological structural elements define the structural picture in the new area. One of the biggest challenges is the sealing capacity. In addition presence of source rocks that could have generated sufficient quantities of oil and gas to fill the structures is uncertain. Whether petroleum will be proven or not in a new province is always uncertain before wells are drilled. Estimating resources in plays take account of this uncertainty by risk-assessing the various parameters of significance for the presence and retention of petroleum. The remaining undiscovered resources reflect the exploration potential with today's knowledge and understanding. Exploration activity in the Barents Sea has been high in recent years. Maintaining a high level of exploration activity is also necessary in the years to come in order to clarify the potential of the undiscovered resources and to make new discoveries which can be developed.