From Diskos and Edvard Grieg to Johan Sverdrup

12.10.2015
“Much of the secret behind new discoveries in mature areas involves delving into old data with renewed enthusiasm and to putting the information into an updated context,” says Hans Chr. Rønnevik, exploration manager in Lundin Norway. And goes on to explain how Diskos contributed to the Johan Sverdrup discovery.

Hans Chr. Rønnevik

The combination of old information from Diskos and new, with a dash of creativity and optimism, is Hans Chr. Rønnevik’s recipe for success.
(Photo: Emile Ashley).

 

The Southern Utsira High was long one of the greatest mysteries on the Norwegian Shelf. In its heyday, it was a sort of tropical island with dinosaurs, palm trees and sandy beaches. Millions of years ago, however, the characteristic height sunk into the ocean and was eventually pushed more than two kilometres down into the seabed. When the geologists started looking for oil in the North Sea a few decades ago, they rediscovered the tropical island and found what they were looking for in the northern end. They found Balder, Grane, Heimdal, Jotun, Ringhorne and Sleipner here. But no such luck in the south.

 

HUNTING ELEPHANTS

All of the dry exploration wells caused the other oil companies to write off the area, accordingly nicknamed the “oil shadow”. But newcomer Lundin Norway had a different idea. The company’s exploration manager, Hans Chr. Rønnevik, was certain that there was also oil to be found in the southern part of the High. Perhaps even an elephant.

He was already quite familiar with the area. In his time in the NPD, he headed the group that gave the Utsira High its name. As exploration manager in Saga Petroleum and DNO, he never gave up on the area, and when Lundin Norway was established with Rønnevik as head of exploration in the summer of 2004, the hunt on the southern Utsira High was back on.

They traversed all of the abandoned trails once more. In Diskos, they found information about two old Statoil wells in the area (16/1-14 and 16/1-15). The first contained gas-fractured basement rocks, while the other contained oil traces on top of a 250-metre good sandstone column. The old data was linked with new, cleaned-up seismic, new computer programs and new enthusiasm, and allowed Lundin’s geologists to uncover new tracks in the old hunting grounds. They led the company to the Edvard Grieg field, which proved that there was, indeed, oil on the southwestern Utsira High.

But Lundin’s big game hunters did not stop there. They followed the tracks further east. Combined old information from Diskos with new, threw in a dose of creativity and optimism, and turned the geological understanding of the Norwegian Shelf upside down in 2010. Because here, in the “oil shadow” on the southern Utsira High, in the middle of the thoroughly explored North Sea, they made one of Norway’s largest ever oil discoveries: Johan Sverdrup. The rest is history.

 

“ENDLESS TIME AND MONEY”

Hans Chr. Rønnevik remembers the challenges well when the Norwegian companies Statoil, Hydro and Saga, in addition to the US company Mobil and the NPD started the data collaboration more than 20 years ago. Mobil was invited along because the company was near the top of the class within data acquisition and storage, and because the Norwegians wanted to prevent the project they had such high hopes for to be perceived as a uniquely Norwegian thing, according to Rønnevik who outlines the dilemma of the time as follows:

“Increasing use of 3D seismic increased data volumes significantly, and the licences on the Shelf were spending ‘endless’ time and money on storage, copying and retrieval. In a licence with ten partners, ten sets of data were stored in ten different locations and with just as many security copies made,” says Rønnevik. The benefit of collecting all of the data in one place was obvious. The challenge was keeping the different users separate. They were able to do this in the Banks’ Central Clearing House. It had to be possible for exploration data as well. In addition, it should be possible for anyone, anywhere in the world, to use the standards for storing data.

IBM was tasked with the challenge, but the principals demanded that they develop the system in Norway so the users always had control over the project. The IT company lived up to its good name and reputation and delivered as promised. “We got the product we wanted,” says Rønnevik today.

 

PROBLEMS THAT WERE RESOLVED

When Diskos was launched at the press conference in Stavanger 1995, Saga’s exploration manager Hans Christen Rønnevik was both happy and satisfied. The three-part collaboration between the oil companies, IT companies and authorities was a success. But Rønnevik had a concern: With the transmission technology of the time, it would take much too long for Saga’s geologists in Oslo to retrieve the data from Ullandhaug.

“It’s just as fast sending discs by plane,” said Rønnevik to Stavanger Aftenblad and expressed a desire to be able to use the data link along Sørlandsbanen (Southern Rail Line) at a competitive price. Twenty years later, dismantling of the telecommunications monopoly and fibre optic development has solved all transmission issues.

 

USERS DECIDE

Though the data volumes will increase substantially, he sees no issues regarding the technological challenges related to this. They will be solved. Diskos’ future is thus fully dependent on the people who use it:

“The most important precondition for continuing the 20-year success is that users continue being faithful to the original concept. That they add all types of data as assumed in order to prevent black holes. You need to give to receive, in line with the Norwegian community spirit. Only this will allow Diskos to be developed into a global database for the Norwegian Shelf,” says Lundin’s exploration manager Hans Chr. Rønnevik.

 

Statoil sketch from development plans for the giant field

Lundin Norway followed the traces from the Edvard Grieg field and discovered Johan Sverdrup on the southern Utsira High
(Statoil sketch from development plans for the giant field).