BHP finds gas but no oil in LeClerc well offshore Trinidad and Tobago

BHP Billiton has plugged its LeClerc 1 ST01 deepwater well, drilled 135 miles offshore eastern Trinidad and Tobago, after it encountered natural gas in multiple zones but failed to find oil. The well reached a total depth of 22,876 ft.

Steve Pastor, BHP Billiton president operations, petroleum, said, “While the focus of our program is a commercial oil discovery, we are encouraged by the results of the first well in our Trinidad and Tobago exploration campaign, LeClerc.”

This is the first well to be drilled in BHP’s much-anticipated deepwater campaign offshore Trinidad and Tobago in what is virgin territory since no exploration has ever taken place in the deep water off the Caribbean twin-island nation.

On May 28, the Australian outfit begun to drill LeClerc with a target depth of 20,000 ft in which the operator was looking for three different sands. Two gas-bearing and one with black oil. It was expected that the black oil would be below the gas and condensate and would have been seen at about 17,000 ft.

However OGJ learned that at about 15,000 ft, the first gas sand was found and the second at about 16,000 ft. No oil sands were found, and when the drilling reached 18,000 ft, a request was made of the island’s Ministry of Energy and Energy Resources to drill beyond the original target depth.

The request for deeper drilling was in fact granted by the ministry, however when the drilling continued BHP and its partner Royal Dutch Shell PLC encountered pressure control problems, a decision was made to do a sidetrack of the well.

The well was sidetracked but did not access any nearby productive zones.

A closer look

At this year’s Trinidad & Tobago Energy Conference, David Rainey, BHP president, exploration, showed a cross-section of the seismic survey of LeClerc, saying that the prospect was 20 km long and 5 km wide.

“We call this prospect LeClerc. With our new seismic we are now able to dissect it in great detail. This is a 3D look at one of several potential target horizons. That red patch at the top of the structure likely indicates the presence of hydrocarbons. It doesn’t say anything about the type of hydrocarbon, or the thickness or quality of the reservoir, but it is certainly an encouraging observation,” Rainey said.

Rainey added, “We have heard from others in the industry that they believe this is a gas play, it may be; but we do have some encouraging evidence to suggest otherwise. This is a surface core that was taken not very far from this structure. I am well past my use-by date as a petroleum systems person, but even I can tell that that is not gas that is black oil.”

The next well in the campaign will be drilled to the northeast of the islands in a completely different trend. BHP will partner with BP PLC in that well. They are expected to go after the Angostura trend, which BHP has already successfully explored off the northeast of Trinidad and Tobago, but on the continental shelf.

The companies will be hoping that the trend extends off the shelf and into the deep water.

BHP said its exploration program will test several additional plays over the next 3 years, focusing on large, tier-1 oil potential in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and potentially Western Australia.

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