Northern Petroleum has applied to the Italian authorities to transfer the role of operator of six permits offshore the west of Sicily to Shell Italia E&P.

The permits comprise G.R17.NP, G.R18.NP, G.R19.NP, G.R20.NP, G.R21.NP and G.R22.NP in the fold-and-thrust belt to the west of Sicily.

With the transfer, Shell will be able to apply for drilling approvals before the final decision on an exploration well drill in the permits.

The joint venture is now finalising the subsurface evaluation.

Northern was operator of the permits during the 2D and 3D seismic phases of the exploration programme, the costs of which were met by Shell.

Under the terms of the farm-in agreement, Shell holds 55% in G.R17.NP, G.R18.NP, G.R19.NP and 70% in G.R20.NP, G.R21.NP and G.R22.NP, with Northern holding the remaining equity interest.