This paper examines the characteristics of as yet undeveloped North Sea discoveries and shows that a significant number of fields will be able to benefit from the development of new production systems integrating, in particular, the advantages of horizontal drilling and multi-phase production. A detailed analysis of the northwestern Europe offshore discoveries shows that, by the end of this century and the beginning of the next one, North Sea operators will have to focus on increasingly small accumulations located in medium water depths and generally not too far from existing installations.

Those for which the distance to an existing or scheduled installation is less than about 15 km could be candidates for satellite development as it is now conceived. However, production from the discoveries located farther away than conventional tie-in distances will require new production systems to be used.

The different economic simulations described in this paper show that, for most of the fields considered, conventional development is not well suited because it is economically risky, even if new techniques such as horizontal drilling are used to bring about an appreciable improvement in their cost effectiveness.

New development methods will thus have to be created. For example, by combining a light floating support with a multi-phase pumping system and horizontal wells, the study case we have used shows that the technical cost of the oil can be reduced by 25%, while the internal rate of return can be multiplied fourfold compared to conventional development.

In the years to come, systems of this type will enable North Sea operators to considerably widen the fields of application of satellite development and thus make production from numerous fields that have been neglected in the past economically cost effective.

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