The company is targeting first oil in early 2016 from the find in the North Falkland basin, which would be the first oilfield ever to come on stream in the frontier South Atlantic province, with development costs estimated at $2 billion.
Production is expected to hit a maximum rate of 120,000 barrels per day by 2018 under the development plan for Sea Lion, based on a recoverable resource of 350 million barrels, Rockhopper said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The London-listed company expects to complete concept engineering studies in the first quarter of 2012 with front-end engineering design set to start shortly thereafter.
Rockhopper revealed that it would be looking to award contracts to both the supplier of the proposed floating production, storage and offloading vessel and subsea contractor by the first quarter of 2013, when the FEED is due to be completed and ready for approval by the Falklands government.
The first indication of a firm development plan for Sea Lion comes on the heels of fresh drilling success for Rockhopper with its latest exploration well, 14/10-7, at the discovery.
The probe, drilled 3.3 kilometres north-west of the discovery well to a total depth of 2696 metres, encountered an additional 26 metres of net pay in a “high-quality reservoir package and oil column”, according to the company, which said the result was at the upper end of expectations.
Rockhopper said it believes the well has derisked areas of relatively lower amplitudes in the northern edge of the fan system within the Sea Lion main complex area.
The well, drilled by Diamond Offshore semi-submersible Ocean Guardian, will now be plugged and abandoned before the rig is moved to drill another exploration probe, 14/10-N, that will further test the Sea Lion reservoir as well as target the Casper and Kermit oil prospects.
Rockhopper has one more well slot available with the rig and is considering whether to take up additional options for the unit. The company said it is fully funded with $170 million in cash for the current drilling campaign.
Chief executive Sam Moody said the latest probe delivered “another excellent result” from the company’s fifth successful well.