In recent years in the U.K.C.S, small fields have been successfully exploited both as satellites to existing infrastructure and as standalone projects using floating production techniques. Amerada Hess Limited has pioneered this approach, particularly in two areas in the Central North Sea: Quadrant 15 around the Ivanhoe/Rob Roy and Scott fields and the Fife area in Quadrants 31/39. The former area is close to existing infrastructure and pipelines whilst the latter is over 30 Kms from the nearest facility.

The search for these small fields in the North Sea has been heralded by the widespread use of 3D seismic which has allowed the identification of much smaller prospective structures and more efficient targeting of exploration wells which may be suspended for use as development wells or later sidetracked for optimum reservoir development. The use of 3D seismic for exploration drilling became more common through the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Such data-sets have helped to more accurately image small, often low relief structures and to optimise the location of exploration and appraisal wells which are often few in number in order to sustain viable economic margins.

In parallel with geophysical developments, advances in offshore engineering technology have helped to achieve lower capital expenditure so necessitating much smaller reserve sizes to make tie-backs economic.

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