UK’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has estimated that the more than 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) remains in approximately 350 unsanctioned discoveries across the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

According to the study, a majority of the potential oil reserves are ‘small pools’, defined as less than 50 million boe technically recoverable and are located within potential tieback and/or extended reach drilling distance to existing infrastructure.

Completed by detailed maps of the discoveries, the assessment was developed by the OGA as part of the Technology Leadership Board’s (TLB) Small Pools Work Group, supported by the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI), Centrica, EnQuest and the Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF).

OGA said that the small pools which lie further away from existing infrastructure would require stand-alone type solutions to recover the reserves.

OGA Technology head Carlo Procaccini said that these small pools represent a very significant opportunity to maximize economic recovery (MER) in the region.

Procaccini noted: “Technology has an important role to play to reduce the cost of development wells, design optimised subsea infrastructure to existing host facilities and develop efficient standalone concepts.

“We are committed to working together with the industry, the TLB and the new Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) which has dedicated one of their Solution Centres to unlock the small pools potential.”

The new publication from the OGA follows completion of a series of events held in 2015 which focused on "small pool" reserves of oil. The events were facilitated by the NSRI.

NSRI project director Dr Gordon Drummond said: “Small pools have a national importance in terms of achieving MER and they must be considered as an industry asset if they are to be capitalised upon.

“Following an extensive mapping exercise, we now know exactly where these small pools are located and what is required to unlock their potential.

“If the subsea industry can rise to the challenge of economically tapping into these pools, the North Sea could have a whole new lease of life.”