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Exploration activities in the Netherlands and North-West Europe since Groningen
Glennie, K.W. (2001). Exploration activities in the Netherlands and North-West Europe since Groningen. Geol. Mijnb. 80(1): 33-52
In: Netherlands Journal of Geosciences. Kluwer/Cambridge University Press: Den Haag, Cambridge. ISSN 0016-7746, more
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  • Glennie, K.W.

    Once the great size of the Groningen Field was fully realized late in 1963, exploration in the southern North Sea was a natural development as the reservoir bedding dipped westward. The origin of that bedding was not certain, one possibility, dune sands, led immediately to a program of desert studies.Licensing regulations for Netherlands waters were not finalized until 1967, offshore exploration beginning with the award of First Round licenses in March 1968. In the UK area, the Continental Shelf Act came into force in May 1964, paving the way for offshore seismic, the first well being spudded late in that year. The first two wells were drilled on the large Mid North Sea High; both were dry, the targeted Rotliegend sandstones being absent. Then followed a series of Rotliegend gas discoveries, large and small, west of Groningen, so that by the time exploration began in Netherlands waters the UK monopoly market was saturated and exploration companies were already looking north for other targets including possible oil.The Rotliegend was targeted in the earliest, wells of the UK central North Sea even though there had already been a series of intriguing oil shows in Chalk and Paleocene reservoirs in Danish and Norwegian waters. These were followed early in 1968 by the discovery of gas in Paleocene turbidites at God, near the UK-Norway median line. The first major discovery was Ekofisk in 1969, a billion-barrel Maastrichtian to Danian Chalk field. Forties (1970) confirmed the potential of the Paleocene sands as another billion barrel find, while the small Auk Field extended the oil-bearing stratigraphy down to the Permian. In 1971, discovery of the billion-barrel Brent field in a rotated fault block started a virtual 'stampede' to prove-up acreage awarded in the UK Fourth Round (1972) before the 50% statutory relinquishment became effective in 1978.Although the geology of much of the North Sea was reasonably well known by the end of the 1970s, new oil and gas reservoirs continued to be discovered during the next two decades. Exploration proved the Atlantic coast of Norway to be a gas and gas-condensate area. The stratigraphic range of reservoirs extended down to the Carboniferous (gas) and Devonian (oil), while in the past decade, forays into the UK Atlantic Margin and offshore Ireland met with mixed success. During this hectic activity, Netherlands exploration confirmed a range of hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs; Jurassic oil in the southern Central Graben, Jurassic-Cretaceous oil derived from a Liassic source mainly onshore and, of course, more gas from the Rotliegend. German exploration had mixed fortunes, with no commercial gas in the North Sea and high nitrogen content in Rotliegend gas in the east. Similarly in Poland, where several small Zechstein oil fields were discovered, the Rotliegend gas was nitrogen rich. The discovery of some 100 billion barrels of oil and oil equivalent beneath the waters of the North Sea since 1964 led to an enormous increase in geological knowledge, making it probably the best known area of comparable size in the World. The area had a Varied history over the past 500 million years: plate-tectonic movement, faulting, igneous activity, climatic change, and deposition in a variety of continental and marine environments, leading to complex geometrical relationships between source rock, reservoir and seal, and to the reasons for diagenetic changes in the quality of the reservoir sequences. Led by increasingly sophisticated seismic, drilling and wireline logging, and coupled with academic research, the North Sea developed into a giant geological laboratory where ideas were tested and extended industry-wide.

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