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Undiscovered resources

11/01/2013 The undiscovered oil and gas resources on the Norwegian shelf are greater than previously assumed. This is a positive development for the future of the oil and gas activity on the NCS.

The NPD has revised its resource estimates and quantified the total undiscovered resources at 2590 million standard cubic metres (Sm3) of oil equivalents (o.e.). The previous estimate from 2010 was 20 million Sm3 lower.

Approximately 270 million Sm3 o.e. have been discovered since the previous revision, which was made after Johan Sverdrup was proven. Several large discoveries have been made since then. Major new discoveries like Johan Sverdrup, Skrugard and Havis would normally have entailed a downward adjustment of the undiscovered resources. However, these discoveries, along with other results of exploration activity in general, have provided new information that has led to revision of the NPD's plays, while new prospects have also been mapped. Overall, this entails an increased estimate for the undiscovered resources.

A play is an analytical tool for a geographically delimited area where several geological factors occur together, so that petroleum can be proven. The critical factors are occurrence of reservoir rocks, source rocks where oil and gas can form, and traps under seal rocks where the oil and gas can accumulate. The play is confirmed when drilling takes place and hydrocarbons are found in the area.

More oil in the North Sea and Barents Sea

We believe that there are larger undiscovered deposits of oil and less gas on the Norwegian shelf than previously estimated.

In the North Sea, the Utsira High and the Tampen area account for the most significant resource estimate changes. The Johan Sverdrup discovery indicates that there is more oil and less gas in the area than estimated in 2010. A new play has been defined which reflects this better than previous plays.

As regards the Barents Sea, undiscovered oil resources have been adjusted upwards, and gas resources have been decreased. This is mainly due to a changed perception of the possibility of finding oil in the area around Skrugard.

The estimates for the Norwegian Sea have not changed appreciably.

The resource estimates cover the same geographic area as the analysis from 2010 and previous analyses. This does not include the Norwegian part of the previously disputed area in the Barents Sea south-east and the waters off Jan Mayen.


The undiscovered resource estimates are uncertain. Until wells are drilled which can confirm or disprove the plays, it is also uncertain whether the play actually exists and whether it contains as much oil and gas as expected. A thoroughly explored area therefore has a more reliable resource estimate than an area that has not been sufficiently mapped by exploration wells. For this reason, the resource estimates for the North Sea have a much narrower range of uncertainty than the areas further north on the shelf, where there are more unconfirmed plays and therefore greater uncertainty.

Updated: 11/01/2013