According to a report from Bernstein, oil production from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) is set to return to a decline in 2019 following a brief respite since 2015. While UK North Sea oil production is long past its peak of 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in 1999, the start-up of new fields and efficiency improvements in mature fields have helped stabilise and even grow oil production.
The UK North Sea is considered to
be the world’s first deep-water basin, and as fields age, their resources inevitably decline, making it harder to extract oil economically.
A sharp rise in infill drilling is partly responsible for the improved production from mature fields, where wells are added to an existing field to decrease well spacing. This helps extend the life of fields by accelerating both the expected recovery and raising the estimated ultimate recovery, which represents the amount of oil that can eventually be economically recovered. Last year at the SEG International Exposition and Annual Meeting, Stephen Greenlee—the president of ExxonMobil Exploration Co., the exploration arm of the oil giant behind Mobil UK distributors—spoke about the importance of geophysical data in informing infilling decisions.
Despite an estimated 4% growth in production this year, Bernstein’s report says it expects UKCS production to resume its previous decline in 2016. Oil & Gas UK also recently said in its Business Outlook that it expects two more years of growth before the reduced investment during the oil price downturn begins to take effect.