In June 2009, a PSA was signed for Absheron field by Total Exploration and Production (TEP) Absheron BV, as operator, and SOA (SOCAR Oil Affiliate). Soon after GDF SUEZ E&P Absheron B.V. joined the venture and shared its commitment to drill an exploration well, ABX-2, within the 3 years of the first exploration period. ABX-2 was spudded in January 2011 with the Maersk Heydar Aliyev semisubmersible drilling rig. In September 2011, a major gas condensate discovery was announced. In June 2012, the JV declared the commerciality of the newly discovered Absheron field. ABX-2 well was suspended in September 2012. In 2015, Absheron field development studies are progressing to pre-FEED stage, based on well data from ABX-2.

The South Caspian basin is known to be a prolific oil and gas region but yet a challenging environment for drilling. Absheron structure which lies in 500m water depth with exploration objectives from 5500m to 7000m is no exception. This paper illustrates the challenges that TEP Absheron BV anticipated and faced during the preparation and the execution of ABX-2 drilling program. It elaborates on particular aspects of the mobilization of drilling operations in Azerbaijan including logistical means, rig modifications, as well as the multiple drilling technologies and strategies that were developed at the planning stage to the actual drilling operations illustrating how the drilling solutions permitted management of unexpected situations and to complete exploration objectives.

The paper also demonstrates the value of factoring the potential appraisal strategy (well testing, geological sidetrack) into an exploration well design in order to maximize the appraisal value gathered from the exploration well allowing acceleration of the field development sequence.

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