Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has commenced production drilling on the Mariner field located in the UK North Sea.

The company intends to drill up to five wells prior to the Mariner A platform hook up and commissioning activity, which is scheduled to start next summer.

The oil field is expected to produce first oil in 2018.

"Predrilling enables production to reach plateau levels more quickly after the start of operations on Mariner A."

Statoil Production UK managing director Hedda Felin said: “This is an exciting period for us as a UKCS operator as we transition from the planning phase to active offshore operations.”

“Predrilling enables production to reach plateau levels more quickly after the start of operations on Mariner A.

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"It will also be an important learning period for us in terms of understanding the reservoir and identifying potential efficiencies for future wells, with safety and the protection of the environment being our fundamental priorities.”

One of the largest jack-up rigs in the world, Noble Lloyd Noble is currently positioned over the Mariner jacket that was installed in 2015.

The first production wells will be drilled through a well deck on the jacket.

Up to five wells will be drilled before the platform topside modules arrive mid-2017.

The company estimates that up to 100 reservoir targets could be drilled over the lifetime of the Mariner field, based on the current development strategy.

To ensure safe and cost-effective operations, the company has worked closely with major contractors Noble Drilling and Schlumberger.

Noble Drilling received the rig contract in 2013 while Schlumberger received the responsibility for integrated drilling and completion services in 2014.

The pre-drilling programme is expected to develop 500 jobs in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Currently, the Mariner topside modules are under construction at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. (DSME) in South Korea and sailaway is expected in the first half of 2017.

Operator of the field, Statoil (U.K.) Limited holds 65.11% interest in the project. The remaining equity lies with co-venturers J.X. Nippon Exploration & Production (UK) Limited (20 %), Siccar Point Energy (8.89%) and Dyas Mariner Limited (6%).

The Mariner field is located on the East Shetland Platform of the UK North Sea.

The field is estimated to hold more than 250 million barrels of oil with an average plateau production of around 55,000 barrels per day.

Image: The Noble Lloyd Noble, one of the largest jack-up rigs in the world. Photo: Courtesy of Statoil.