Germany’s Wintershall has discovered oil in exploration licence F17a, located 120km north of Den Helder in the Dutch North Sea.

"The company plans to now plug and abandon the well and commence appraisal drilling in 2013 to confirm commercial viability."

During the production tests the company encountered a Late Cretaceous Chalk reservoir of good quality crude oil in the F17-10 well.

On 18 September 2012, Wintershall used jack-up rig GSP Saturn to spud the well in a water depth of 44m.

The well, drilled to a total depth of 1,490m into the top of a salt dome, identified a large oil column with an estimated reserve of 30 million barrels of recoverable oil.

The company plans to now plug and abandon the well and commence appraisal drilling in 2013 to confirm commercial viability of the oil discovery.

Wintershall Noordzee managing director, Gilbert van den Brink, stressed that the company’s focus has been on gas production and exploration, though it also operates the Kotter and Logger oil fields.

"Our challenge now will be to move this discovery from the exploration phase, through appraisal drilling in 2013, to the development phase thereafter," van der Brink said.

"Furthermore, we are looking for additional exploration drilling in this area. It would be great if we can add one or two additional oil fields on the map again."

Wintershall Noordzee, the operator of the F17a, holds 30% interest, while EBN and GDF SUEZ E&P Nederland have 40% and 20% respectively, and Rosewood Exploration and TAQA Offshore each have a five percent stake.

The company began tight gas production from the K18-Golf field in the Dutch North Sea in early 2012, while earlier in October 2011 it commissioned its first Wintershall-operated natural gas production facility in the British North Sea with the Wingate platform. Wintershall is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BASF.