Maersk begins production well drilling at Culzean field
Drilling operations have got under way on the first production well for a major gas field in the UK North Sea.
Maersk Oil is planning to drill a total of six production wells at the high pressure/high temperature (HPHT) Culzean field.
The first gas is expected to be produced from Culzean in 2019.
The development, which lies about 145 miles east of Aberdeen, is one of the largest gas fields discovered in the North Sea in more than a decade.
The Maersk Highlander rig is drilling the first production well.
The drilling campaign will be supported by more than 30 UK-based well services companies.
Gretchen Watkins, from Maersk Oil, said: "This is an important milestone in ensuring that we can deliver Culzean on schedule, and with it 5% of UK gas demand in 2020-21.
Maersk has prepared the drilling programme on a digital "virtual well", using a specialised simulator at Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University.
Culzean's wells delivery manager, Andrew Lough, said: "Working on a virtual rig, designed to look and feel like the Maersk Highlander, has been invaluable.
"It has enabled us to prepare, in a very life-like environment, for the drilling campaign, which will contribute to a safe and efficient drilling operation that will be an important milestone in developing the largest new field discovered in the UK North Sea for more than a decade."
In May, BP announced it had doubled its stake in Culzean as part of a £7bn investment programme.
The company said it had raised its interest in the Maersk Oil-operated Culzean development from 16% to 32%.
It did not disclose how much it paid co-venturer JX Nippon for the additional stake.
The gas condensate field has resources estimated at 250-300 million barrels.