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Hannon Westwood reports on 2015 drilling activity, results and M&A transactions in NW Europe

11th January 2016

2015: UK delivers quality, Norway provides quantity

E&A well spuds in the UK is an all-time low
E&A well spuds in the UK is an all-time low

A year on since the oil price collapse and the effects are making themselves felt across NW Europe, particularly in the UK and Norwegian sectors.  The count of E&A well spuds in the UK is an all-time low, a level not seen since  offshore drilling commenced in 1964, whilst in Norway a glut of dry holes and technical-only, rather than commercial, successes have plagued otherwise buoyant activity levels.  

However, whilst the UK saw just 13 exploration spuds last year, matching that of 2014, commercial success rates have been the highest for over a decade, and in 2015, the UK delivered the same volume of new resources through the drill-bit as Norway, despite far fewer wells, with 16.5 mmboe per well comparing favourably to just 6 mmboe per well east of the median line. Meanwhile, continued caution in the M&A market has resulted in only a handful of transactions in the UK, whilst it is business as usual in Norway with over 40 deals conducted, Hannon Westwood reports.

Positive results from the UK, in particular with regard to high commercial success rates and production levels, and Norway, where activity levels have remained high despite the current environment, are supplemented with encouraging signs elsewhere in NW Europe.  The largest gas discovery in the Netherlands for some time was reported last year, albeit at 150 bcf, along with substantial interests in the latest offshore Ireland licensing Round provide optimism for the industry.  

Looking forwards, a number of potentially high impact E&A wells in the UK are expected in 2016, whilst the deals market in Norway is anticipated to remain stable despite a forecast drop in E&A drilling.  So whilst investment is flagging, and companies are becoming ever more averse to unnecessary or risky expenditure, there remains quite a lot to be positive about in the coming 12 months.

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