Norwegian energy company Equinor has made a light oil discovery in the Sputnik exploration well in the Barents Sea, with estimated recoverable resources of 20-65 million barrels of oil (MMbbl).

The Sputnik well was drilled in the PL855 licence, located approximately 30km northeast of the Wisting discovery. It was drilled to a vertical depth of 1569m below the seabed by the West Hercules semi-submersible drilling rig.

Equinor is the operator of the PL855 licence, with an operating interest of 55%. Partners in the licence include Austrian oil and gas company OMV (25%) and Norwegian oil and gas company Petoro (20%).

The well encountered a 15m oil column in a Triassic sandstone reservoir, with fluid samples containing light oil and water.

Equinor senior vice president for exploration in Norway Nick Ashton said: “We are encouraged by this result as it confirms the presence of oil north of the Wisting discovery, where Equinor has acquired a strong acreage position.

“The geology in the Barents Sea is complex, and more work lies ahead to determine commerciality. But this discovery shows that persistence and our ability to learn from previous well results does pay off.”

The Sputnik well is the second well in the PL855 licence following a small, uncommercial oil discovery in a reservoir channel system made through Equinor’s Gemini Nord well in 2017. Equinor also targeted a larger channel complex in the neighbouring PL615 licence with the Intrepid Eagle well in 2018, which proved a 200m gas column but no oil.

Ashton said: “Detailed fluid analysis combined with geological and geophysical mapping will be carried out to fully understand the commercial potential of the Sputnik discovery.

“If confirmed that the structure comprises volumes that can be recovered in a commercially viable way, the partnership will assess possible development solutions.”