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Drilling for oil off Walney

Source: NW Evening Mail, 28 September 2010

THE search is on for oil and gas off Walney Island following favourable testing by London oil companies.

Two oil companies plan to install a drilling rig on the island which can drill at an angle out to sea.

The Nautical Oil and Encore Oil companies believe there could be big deposits of either heavy oil or gas or both in the rock formations under the seabed very close to the island.

Seismic tests have increased hopes of finds still further when combined with analysis of wells drilled previously.

Nautical Oil says it is seeking an onshore drilling permit from the government and is looking at land sites on Walney.

Commercial director of Nautical Oil, Paul Jennings, said that drilling from land was a cheaper and more practical than installing a rig in shallow waters near the shore and less disruptive.

Analysis has indicated two promising seabed formations one off north Walney and a bigger one, the Merrow prospect, to the south. Although there could be oil Mr Jennings said the important find might turn out to be gas: “We have carried assessment of the seismic data. We are encouraged by the data.

“It is sufficient for us to be prepared to start drilling a well and that will be least expensive from onshore and the company is looking for possible drilling sites.”

He said of the Merrow prospect off the south of the island: “If it is oil it is going to be heavy oil which is much more viscous and therefore takes a lot more energy to get it out of the reservoir.”

Heavy oil is less attractive to the market than regular oil, he said but Nautical has successfully developed heavy oil extraction in the North Sea which has since been sold to Statoil.

He said if it was gas there could be, “... 10 to 15 years” production that could go through existing facilities like the Rampside gas terminals.

If oil was discovered in commercial quantities it would need to be extracted and transported and processed though there are existing oil processing facilities on Merseyside, he said.

Existing data from other wells drilled meant there is, “... proof of a working hydrocarbon system in the area and of oil being generated and trapped”.

Asked if it all meant the Walney coast was on the brink of an oil or gas boom, he said: “I would not say boom but I think there is interest and if it is successful that will bring more interest.”

Stuart Klosinski, industrial development manager of Furness Enterprise, said: “It is well known that there is gas, condensates and that there is oil in the Irish Sea.

“Even if it is in modest amounts it strengthens Barrow’s role as a key part of the Cumbrian Energy Coast.”

”We are fortunate in that a lot of companies in Furness are heavily involved with the oil industry. We would hope this would work to the Furness companies benefit.”

First published at 13:05, Tuesday, 28 September 2010
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