Underexplored Plays

The Underexplored Plays Regional Conference is a joint venture between the Sedimentology & Stratigraphy, Geophysics and Structural Geology Network Groups under the Force co-operation


  • Date 08.04.2015
  • Time 09:00
  • Duration 2 days
  • Participants 157
  • Register by 08.05.2015
Underexplored Plays_main_img
Underexplored Plays

Summary and presentations

Opening speech by Sidsel Lindsø, Leader of the Organising Committee

Some years back, the leading engineer Sextus Julius Frontius said the following: “New inventions have reached their maximum long time ago, and I see no hope for further development in inventions”. He was a Roman, and this was 2000 years ago.

Napoleon thought that the Fultons steamboats were a rather silly idea, and Professor Lardner explained in 1830 that the idea of high speed trains was impossible, because people would die by choking due to lack of oxygene.

In 1878, Professor Wilson from Oxford University said that electric light would never become popular – and The Times wrote in 1903 that it was impossible to make maschines fly. A few weeks later, the Wright brothers actually proved that it could be done.

Leading authorities have rejected the value and significance of almost all of our rather popular technologies such as electrical power, radios, telephones, home computers etc. When John von Neumann had been part of inventing the electrical computer, he said: “It certainly looks like we have reached the limit for what is possible to reach within computer technology”. That was in 1949, and since then, computers are now 10.000 BILLION times faster.

The same goes with our business. There are certain well-known and very established truths, and there was once where the Barents Sea was a gas basin. There was also a few weeks ago, when only few believed that there would be discovered oil in the outer Vøring Basin.

The idea of having a regional conference on Underexplored Plays came from a discussion after the Pil and Bue discoveries, where we discussed the little number of courageous wells, really trying to test new ideas. There are less wells drilled in the Norwegian sector than in the UK sector for various reasons, but Norway has a tailormade tax regime for drilling high risk exploration wells.

So the first hypothesis was that it was lack of creativity and innovation, but after a month of gathering ideas from the networks, we had a list of 100 specific topics to chase. We simply asked people for their forgotten favorites, the prospects that was overlooked, perhaps because other wells in the global portfolio had a higher chance of success, or maybe because the proposed play concept was belonging to the “High Risk Category”, that is often written off by management. We asked people about topics that should be revived on an Underexplored Plays conference, and we got proposals covering the entire stratigraphy. Hence, we concluded that it was not a conference on innovation that was needed. There are plenty of creative ideas in the industry, and we had plenty of talks for an entire week, but we have limited ourselves to a two-day conference – including a core workshop.

What we try to achieve with those two days is to inspire you. Maybe you’ll find out something you hadn’t thought of before, maybe you will see something that added just that element to your understanding that makes it fall into place and lead to development of a new concept? We must also acknowledge that there are younger people in the industry that might not have heard the old story of a certain discovery, because everybody knows it and assumes that everybody else does. Hence, we have brought in some ‘old stories’ that deserves a little bit of attention. And new ones.

You will for example be introduced to the rather unknown Zechstein story in the Johan Sverdrup license, you will learn about the results of the recent Jordbær well, you will learn that milliDarcies of the North Sea Cretaceous Chalk are quite all right, you will learn of the Paleocene outcrops of NE Greenland, which might be representative for the new play proven by the Pingvin well – and Dag Karlsen will share the learnings of his long career and present his understanding of the petroleum systems on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

We’ll also learn about why porosity is preserved at great depth at the Beta discovery, where an appraisal well is currently being drilled – and then the Nordland Ridge will receive a little well deserved attention. And since a company presented a few leads and a proven petroleum system in Helgeland Basin at the Exploration Revived conference, maybe more oil companies will be active there in near future?

Furthermore, in UK, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has recently concluded that 20% of the remaining undiscovered resources are to be found in basement. That is a play that has just been touched upon here in Norway, but maybe we can learn from them? Lundin has been kind to present the geophysical aspects of visualising weathered basement, together with putting one of their cores on display, so we hope that we will learn a lot from that.

All in all: thank you all for coming to this conference. We in the Organising Committe are proud of the program – and we hope you will learn a lot from these two days. Maybe you’ll be inspired and bring knowledge back with you and revitalise one of these Underexplored Plays?

If you have been inspired, then we have achieved what we wanted.

In the first session, we thought it would be useful to have NPD outlining their visions for the plays that they consider underexplored – and indicate which direction they want us to go.

And then it would be useful to put things in a more regional perspective, and compare the current state of the Norwegian Continental Shelf with our neighbouring countries. It is also crucial to understand the differences in infrastructure and fiscal regimes – meaning tax – and get a feel for what lies ahead of us, now we have found the easy hydrocarbons. And some of the more difficult ones. Stratigraphic trap types do have a higher risk, but we probably have to face that we have to drill more of these trap types in the future.

We have invited Gaffney, Cline and Associates to present an overview and comparison between the proven plays in UK versus Norwegian sector, where they will give us a flavour for what lies ahead of us. They are experts on both the UK and Norwegian side of the North Sea and can share some of their overview and insight in the business.

Our first speaker today is Wenche T. Johansen from NPD. She is...

About Wenche at NPD:

… a geophysicist by background. She has previously worked with seismic processing in WesternGeco for 6 years before joining NPD in 2002. Wenche has been involved in projects regarding exploration, producing fields and carbon capture and storage, and she was Project Manager for the 21st licensing round and worked as Discipline Coordinator for Geosciences until November last year. She is now part of the Exploration Management Team as Assistant Director.


About GCA and the presenter:

Our second speaker today is Jonathan Westbury from Gaffney, Cline and Associates. GCA was originally a British expert consultancy company that is now present all over the globe, and assists both companies and goverments as independant advisors. They have, amongst many other things, helped the Norwegian Government establishing Petoro, and they have assisted the Iraqi Government with their first licensing round, enabling Iraq to maintain the high requirements to the oil companies interested in entering the country.

Jonathan Westbury: is a Principal Advisor with GCA, he has over 37 years of experience in the petroleum Industry holding senior technical and advisory roles with majors and operators. Prior to joining GCA, Jonathan spent 26 years with Shell, predominantly in the E&P area, where he held the positions of Hydrocarbon Maturation Planning Lead, Head of Reserves Reporting, and Geoscience Discipline Chief. Before that, he spent 8 years with Phillips Petroleum and 4 years with Anadrill.




Unlocking the potential of Petroleum Systems by Maren Bjørheim, NPD

Do you remember when the Barents Sea was only a gas play, and when Utsira High had a migration problem?
Through the years exploration activity has revealed that paradigms can be challenged.
In the following session “unlocking the potential of petroleum systems” we will learn that oil seeps is the only real direct hydrocarbon indicator, and that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The first talk is given by professor Dag karlsen from the university of Oslo. Karlsen has through his career worked to increase the understanding of petroleum-systems on NCS and has spezialised in the use of oil and gas to delineate and trace out basin-scale migration patterns. In 1993, Karlsen was given the Best Paper Award by the chemical Society of America. Besides exploration related efforts Karlsen continues to spezialise in methods for examining the products generated in nature from coals and other source rocks in close cooperation with the petroleum industry.
Now I pass the word to you professor Karlsen.
Our next speaker is Chris Parry, a Welsh (British) sequence stratigrapher by background, with global experience as an exploration geologist in frontier basins and underexplored plays. He used to work with Conoco, then ConocoPhillips and now works with E.ON. 
He is an active FORCE participant recently being elected to the Technical Committee for Improved Exploration, and has recently participated in the organizing committee of the 2014 “From Seismic Fantasy to Geological Fact” workshop. He is also in the committee of today’s workshop.
Chris has made a number of presentations illustrating how globally accepted, proven, data driven play concepts can be applied to the geology of the Norwegian Continental Shelf:
Examples: Arctic Days, Tromsø back in2010, Exploration Revived in Bergen in 2011, AAPG Arctic Days in Halifax in Canada also in 2011, the Winterconference, in Reykjavik in Iceland in 2012 and now he will give an inspiring talk here in Stavanger. Welcome.


Paleozoic Session by Jon Havard Pedersen, Lundin Norway

• 12% of the world's discovered oil is trapped  in Palaeozoic rocks
• 25% of the world's petroleum resources are generated from Palaeozoic source rocks
• 6% of the hydrocarbon fields in the North Sea are in pre-Triassic reservoirs
• Less than 1% of oil produced has come from pre-Triassic reservoirs
• In the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, only 15% of the exploration wells have penetrated pre-Triassic formations
• Palaeozoic reservoirs are often part of a common trap including younger reservoir rocks
• Drill more, drill deeper!

Triassic Session by Charles Jourdan, Maersk Oil Norway

Back in 1975 the prognosis for the pre-Cretaceous Ula prospect in the southern Norwegian North Sea predicted a thick Triassic section with sandstones beneath a thin Jurassic reservoir section. The result was a major Jurassic field with only a very minor Triassic contribution. After that came the Gullfaks and Snorre discoveries in 1978-9 where Triassic fluvial/alluvial reservoirs are oil bearing in areas where the Jurassic overburden has been removed by erosion over the highest parts of the tilted fault blocks. Then there was a long history with few encouragements along the eastern side of the North Sea Graben system, where the overlying Jurassic and Tertiary has stolen the honours. This in contrast to the results on the UK side of the basin where there seems to be a better sub-division and control over Triassic depositional systems and a better exploration success.  Only more recently have there been some significant Norwegian South Viking Graben discoveries  where Triassic aeolian, fluvial and alluvial reservoirs are important contributors to field reserves eg. Edvard Grieg and Ivar Aasen. However, even here near and around the main part of the Utsira High the reservoir quality can be highly variable and producibility difficult to predict eg Luno II compartments, Grevling, Pi. How can we make new advances in the Norwegian North Sea Triassic exploration?
Further north the main focus has also been on the Jurassic sequences in pre-Cretaceous prospects, but more recently closer to the basin edge we are now seeing some hydrocarbon accumulations in the Red and Grey beds of Mid-Norway and in the Goliat area in the southern Barents. Over the rest of the Barents Sea there has been the challenge of Snadd reservoirs with generally low N/g and poor connectivity which adversely affects field economics.
Our 2 talks in this session will perhaps help us move forward in all these areas. The first looks at better understanding the Snadd in the Barents Sea. The second looks back to the Southern North Sea Gas province for new inspiration since there has been several Triassic sandstone successes in that area.


 Jurassic Session by Klaus Dittmers, RWE Dea Norge

This session is about the Jurassic.
Why is that??, the Jurassic is one of the probably best explored plays both in the Norway and Uk; covers the whole cirumatlantic realm as far as the Falkland Basin, where there has been rifting and deposition of sands. Brent has been the  Bread and Butter in the North Sea and there also are Snøhvits and Johann Castbergs in the Barents Sea...as that as good as it gets????
Well the intention of talks in this (workshop) session is to highlight, that it is important to cross borders in terms of several aspectas as we will see. As explorationist still we are too often limited by paradigms. So extend your horizon! And let us push the boundaries. Most obvious aspect of borders is the geographic aspect and we will dealt with in the first 2 talks:
Russian Barents Sea in fact you can argue that the Jurassic is not underexplored here, but it is a vast area; It is also in this session because it will shed new light on the “Underexplored” Norwegian part! So underexplored in 2fold!
East Greenland: is an important filed analogue to Norwegian conjugated margin …much better outcrops. In the Talk we are dealing with new data from now public cores.……
Pushing the borders into the 3rd and 4th dimensionis  the last talk in this session deals with  Qz Cementation The talk  will examine another boundary that often exists in our minds (example red area in reservoir risk maps), and encourage us to think less “deterministically”.”
We have an interesting blend of people , both culturally as wells as background and institutions people work in in this session

Cretaceous Session by Irina Romeo, Maersk Oil Norway

Cretaceous sediments were deposited over most of the continental-shelf areas of Western Europe.
In the North Sea, more than half of all Cretaceous fields are within the Upper Cretaceous Chalk reservoirs. We are all quite familiar with the high early exploration success within the highly porous chalk, as well as later field life extension through water injection and EOR techniques in fields like Ekofisk, Valhall, Hod and Tor, all of them, extremely important for the Norwegian Oil journey. We also know, that a great number of the exploration wells that passed through the Cretaceous on their way to the Jurassic or older targets, were drilled on structural highs that were positive features during chalk deposition. Consequently, chalk submarine fans with potential high reservoir quality could still be found basinwards of these features. There are very large areas of chalk that remain underexplored. The Chalk fields in the Danish sector are smaller than those in Norway and, in some cases, have more challenging reservoir properties. Today we will hear an interesting talk that will show us how this play is being revisited in the Danish sector of North Sea.
Lower Cretaceous clastic wedges have been a successful play in the UK continental shelf (e.g. Moray Firth area). Only technical discoveries have been found in Valanginian Pre-Cenomanian units on the Norwegian North Sea Shelf, some of these, discovered by accident when drilling established Jurassic plays.
In the eastern part of the northern North Sea, the Cretaceous play potential was proven by the discovery of the Agat gas find, which proved stratigraphic trapping in Lower Cretaceous sandstones on the northern extension of the Horda platform. There may still also be areas of the northern North Viking Graben that could contain significant clastic reservoir sands of Late Cretaceous age.
In Mid Norway, five reservoir intervals of Cretaceous to Palaeocene age can be correlated in wells drilled on the Halten Terrace, a few tens of kilometers east of Helland Hansen, also  in the Ormen Lange area and in the Slørebotn Subbasin. These are the Lange, Lysing Nise, Springar and Egga sandstones. Sandstones of similar age also occur in wells in the Vøring and Møre basins, examples of these are found in Aasta Hansteen. A couple of weeks ago, the Snefrid discovey was announced. It found more than 100m of gas column and 4 m of oil within the Nise Fm with good reservoir properties, which makes us think that, maybe, the old story about the oil in the Luva field was not wrong after all. Nevertheless, away from well control, their presence remains unproven.  Unravelling the distribution and quality of potential reservoirs deposited in a distal position of the basin constitutes the main exploration challenge.  Today, we will have the opportunity to listen to two interesting talks; one about the Skarv Field in the Halten-Dønna terrace and another one about the Upper Cretaceous Springar Fm in the Vøring Basin. In addition, the proximity of the Vøring Basin to East Greenland makes that area an obvious field analogy with a short distance to the volcanic area to the West.
Mapped traps of Lower Cretaceous clastic wedges along the master faults or internal basin highs have been a target in the south-western Barents Sea, gas and oil technical discoveries such as Skalle, Juksa, and Pingvin have proven a valid play model. However, the Lower Cretaceous clastic wedges remain an under-explored play along the basin margins of the Barents Sea, as most of the past and present focus has been into Jurassic and Triassic targets.
So all-in-all one can reasonably expect exploration within the Cretaceous to continue for a good while into the future.


Paleocene-Eocene Session by Chris Parry, E.ON

One of the first wells to hint at the potential of the Tertiary of the North Sea was the undiscovery well 22/11-1, which was drilled in 1967. This was the 10th wildcat spudded in the Central North Sea and the 57th well in the offshore UK sector. Thin, uneconomic oil bearing sands were encountered in the Paleocene, which were to prove to be the first clues to the Nelson Field, which was finally discovered 21 years later.
At about the same time in the Norway sector, the second well (25/11-1), also discovered thin oil bearing sands in the Paleocene, which many years later was finally to become the Balder Field. Two years later, in 1969, the giant chalk Ekofisk Field was accidentally discovered because the primary objective Paleocene sands were absent – this well was nearly the 200th wildcat drilled offshore following the giant Groningen gas discovery onshore Holland.
Three years following the Nelson undiscovery well, while exploring for the underlying Jurassic,  the giant Forties Field, was unexpectedly discovered in 1970, by 21/10-1, the 21st well in the CNS and 181st offshore UK - no closure could be mapped on the 2D seismic at the Palaeocene level – and the play took off.
In 1988, 21 years after the Nelson undiscovery well, armed with knowledge derived from field development drilling and 3D seismic, which identified the channelized nature of the deepwater Paleocene reservoirs, Enterprise returned to the undiscovery well and re-drilled the structural/stratigraphic trap. This resulted in the discovery of the Nelson Field. The 500 MMBOR discovery well (22/11-6) was the 653rd wildcat in the CNS and the 1403rd exploration well to be drilled in the offshore UK sector, located only 1000 m to the NE from the 21 years earlier near miss.
Eleven years later, further updip the depositional fairway, the stratigraphically trapped Callenish Field, identified by detailed sequence stratigraphic studies and AVO analyses, was discovered by 15/29b-12 in 1999, by the 1150th wildcat in the CNS (2427th exploration well offshore UK).
Lessons learned transferred to the Norwegian sector led to discovery of the Alveheim Field with 24/6-2 (the 478th wildcat in the North Sea, 632nd well offshore Norway)
1990 WOS the stratigraphically trapped Paleocene Foinhaven Field was discovered while drilling for the underlying Jurassic structural trap. A similar AVO response in the stratigraphic Schiehallion trap was successfully drilled and sparked an industry rush to drill “floating amplitude anomalies” – most of which failed. An analysis by Nick Loizou in 2007 Exploration Revived of the 73 UK WOS Tertiary prospects drilled by that time were that 57% had been located on invalid traps, while only circa 20% of the 48 stratigraphic traps had been successful – the basin margin or location over deeper structural highs were the key to these successes.
In the Norwegian Møre Basin, the giant Ormen Lange gas field, with an obvious flat spot, was discovered in 1997 (well 6305/5-1, 613th well offshore Norway, 97th wildcat in Mid Norway), while 6 years later, the 6706/6-1 well resulted in the Hvitveis discovery 725th well offshore Norway, 135th wildcat in Mid Norway), whose reservoir can be correlated to the outcrops that are to be described by Henrik in our first presentation on the Tertiary.
Recently, this prolific play has been extended further northwards into the western Barents Sea with the Pingvin gas discovery, 7220/2-1, the 1050th wildcat in offshore Norway (in the UK the 1050th wildcat was drilled nearly 20 years ago in 1996).
Now let’s turn our attention to the Eocene:
Thin, uneconomic oil bearing sands had often been seen in the Oligocene to Eocene aged shales in the exploration and appraisal wells in the Britannia area and many traditional deepwater depositional models were invoked to explain their distribution. 
The Lower Cretaceous Britannia appraisal well 16/26-5 was moved 1 kilometer to the west of the proposed location, in order to avoid laying one of the rig’s positioning anchor cables over the Brae-Forties pipeline and in 1984, the thick oil bearing sands of the 400 MMBOR Alba Field were accidentally discovered. With subsequent coring during appraisal and development drilling, together with higher resolution shear wave 3D seismic, the injected nature of many of these sands were finally recognized.
Injectites were also recognized in the reservoirs of the Balder Field and their distribution in the North Sea Tertiary section, form the subject of the second talk of this session by Mads Huuse of the University of Manchester.
Our first speaker is Henrik Nøhr-Hansen: (M.Sc. 1984, Ph.D. 1991 Copenhagen University)- Senior research geologist/palynologist in the department of stratigraphy at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), employed since 1984. He is specialised in correlation of Cretaceous – Palaeogene successions from on and offshore Greenland, Arctic Canada, offshore eastern Canada, offshore Norway, offshore Faroe Islands and offshore Denmark. He has previous worked with Kimmeridge Clay, K/T boundary stratigraphy, dinoflagellate cyst taxonomy and Palaeozoic source rock mapping.The work that will be presented at the Force conference is based on GEUS´ mapping and core drilling campaign of the Cretaceous of NE Greenland initiated in 2008. The talk will focus on the Upper Cretaceous and Palaeogene sediments and stratigraphy as possible time equivalents for offshore plays.
Our second speaker of the session is Dr Mads Huuse; he is a Reader in Seismic Interpretation in Manchester and a PI in the Injected Sands Research Consortium (SIRG) between the Universities of Aberdeen and Manchester and 13 sponsor companies. He has been actively involved in North Sea basin analysis since 1994 and injectites since 2000.



Younger Strata Session by Alana Finlayson, BG Group

The final section of the programme before we move onto the core workshop is focused on young strata.
Following the discovery of the Pleistocene Peon gas discovery, and its appraisal in 2009, I came across an interesting quote on the NPD website ‘this probably represents the start of exploration with a view towards developing shallow gas on the Norwegian Shelf’. Since then what has actually happened, is that activity has generally stagnated although this year activity has picked up, and there have been some tests of the shallow stratigraphy in the North Sea. The Lundin operated Zulu well (26/10-1) found a 24m gas column in Miocene Utsira Fm sandstones with excellent reservoir properties while the BG operated Jordbær SørØst well (34/3-4 S), which is the focus of the first talk in this section, tested a 250m thick Pliocene channel system with 50m of very good reservoir quality sandstones with traces of gas.
The shallow depths of burial mean that reservoir quality is generally excellent, with charge being the key risk. Both biogenic and thermogenic sources can be invoked. Producing from shallow depths is perceived to be difficult, however we should remember that OMV are working on a development plan for the shallow Wisting oil discovery in the Barents Sea and shallow gas reservoirs are currently producing in the Netherlands. Bright spots are common throughout the North Sea and are generally avoided as they are perceived as shallow hazards, however in the Netherlands these bright spots have been actively targeted for development with 3 fields currently in production. The Netherlands is the first country in the North Sea where shallow gas is being successfully developed and our second speaker is from EPN which is the state participant in E&P activities in the Netherlands.




Remember when the Barents Sea was only a gas play? 
Remember when the only source rock was the Upper Jurassic?
Remember when the Utsira High had a migration problem? 

We want to challenge the established paradigms in Norway and bust these and other myths that are out there. 

We want to encourage explorationists to think beyond the accepted wisdom and consider new possibilities. 

The conference will show case a range of underexplored plays and recent play openers on the NCS. 






 Follow the progress of the organisation of the conference on Twitter by following

 @Force_SGG or search for #ForceRC15

 You can also see what we are communicating by clicking this link: https://twitter.com/force_sgg


FORCE seminars have previously been fully booked with waiting lists so you are encouraged to sign up as soon as you know you will attend.

Participant fees  
FORCE member NOK 1500,-
Non-member NOK 3000,-
University/student NOK 500,-

Please find registration box at the top of the page.

Important information:
You can register as a FORCE member and pay "FORCE member" price if you are an employee of a member company.
All FORCE members are listed here.

Payment is made online by credit card. Please note that no refunds will be given after you have signed up. If you for any reason can not attend the workshop, you are welcome to send a representative, just inform Heidi Hagland as soon as there are changes.

There will be an evening dinner at the restaurant "Hall Toll" Wednesday April 8th, this is included in the seminar fee, but we kindly ask you to inform us if you are not attending the dinner.



Photo: Øyvind Hagen - Statoil