SPE Member


In order to continue operating in the North Sea, operators must control costs, a big part of which is drilling related in the exploration and development stages. It is important that this control not be achieved at the expense of the drilling contractor, service company or supplier sectors, but rather through greater efficiency and improved performance whereby the operator achieves lower well costs and the supporting function(s) (contractors) improve their potential for increased profitability.

Hamilton Oil Company Ltd have developed a very successful operating philosophy based on the principles of mutual cooperation, total integrated commitment, focused ownership and individual plus corporate accountability. This paper deals with methods which have been used to achieve what are believed to be superior results.


The North Sea is recognised as one of the highest cost operating areas in the world. In order to continue their presence in this arena, operators must control costs, a major portion of which is drilling related in the exploration and development stages. Figures 1, 2 and 3 demonstrate the relationship of the crude price with well costs for the past 15–20 years. Well costs have increased significantly while crude prices have remained relatively flat. As the North Sea has become a mature petroleum province, oil and gas discoveries have become smaller and more difficult to explore for, develop, and exploit. Figure 4 shows that more wells are being required to find smaller hydrocarbon reserves.

Hamilton Oil Company Limited (HOCL) as an independent operator produced the first UKCS oil in 1975 from two subsea wells in the Argyll field using a converted semi submersible drilling rig as a floating production facility (FPF). HOCL has continued this innovative type philosophy throughout the exploration/development phases of the Esmond, Ravenspurn North and Crawford complexes as well as in the current forwarding planning for the Liverpool Bay development of the Hamilton, Hamilton North, Douglas and Lennox fields. Several schemes or variations there of are being used or have been considered for achieving the stated operator objective of lower well costs.

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