The Atlantic Frontier, the area between the UK and the Faroe Islands, is characterised by relatively deep water and a harsh environment presenting significantchallenges for the UK oil industry. Over twenty years of exploration have yielded four discoveries, three of which are considered significant (Clair, Foinaven and Schiehallion). This paper describes thehistory of exploration and the three principle discoveries and summarises the current development plans for each. BP and Shell's strategic goals and business approach are also outlined. Pace is the key attribute which typifies our current approach to developments in the Atlantic Frontier in pursuit of our intent to establish a major new hydrocarbon province.


This paper presents a general description of the Atlantic Frontier and serves to introduce the papers that follow in this section (Ref. 1-3) which discuss in detail the principle developments. It describes the location and unique environment of the area, recounts the history of exploration, summarises the principle discoveries and finally reflects on the strategy and business approach adopted by BP and Shell in exploiting the basin.

Location and Environment

Location. While the eastern ‘Atlantic Frontier’ can be said to extend from northern Norway to the west of Ireland and beyond, the focus of activity has to date been in the area more commonly known as ‘west of Shetland’. This area stretches from between the Shetland and Orkney Islands (to the north of the Scottish mainland) to the Faroe Islands, some 450 kilometres to the north west (Fig, 1) The area is split between UK and Faroese designated waters (to the south-east and north-west respectively) with a zone in the middle, referred to as the ‘White Zone’ which is still in dispute between the two Governments and is therefore effectively unavailable to the industry for exploration. The vast majority of activity to date (including all exploration drilling and all discoveries) has been in UK waters. BP/Shell's activity in the last three years has focused on the southern end of the basin, in and around UK Quadrant 204.

The Faroe-Shetland area is characterised by relatively deep water. The continental shelf, withwater depths to 200 metres, extends some 100-150 kilometres to the north-west of the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Thereafter the sea bed deepens quite steeply reaching a maximum of about 1200 metres in the centre of the Faroe-Shetland Trough before rising again towards the Faroe Islands. These water depthsmay not be excessive when compared to the Gulf of Mexico or the Campos Basin offshore Brazil, but they are considerably greater than experienced in the North Sea where the deepest water development in the Norwegian sector is Troll at some 320 metres and in the UK sector is Magnus at less than 200 metres. One of the key challenges for the UK oil industry is to access the technology necessary to exploit deep water discoveries.

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