Drilling is to be kicked off next year on a UK North Sea development prospect called Skipper which was originally discovered by Unocal.

Originally drilled by Unocal back in 1990, the Skipper prospect is being targeted again, by new operatpor ATP Oil and Gas partnered by Independent Oil and Gas, which each hold  50% equity in the prospect.

IOG said today Skipper in Northern North Sea block 9/21, is to be drilled in the first half next year with the Transocean Arctic III  – a part of a long-term contract to drill on the Cheviot heavy oil development.

“Mechanical issues prevented a substantive flow test at that time and the aim of the appraisal well is to get a better sample and observe the flow characteristics,” IOG reported today. “There is also a secondary objective to test the deeper Maureen and Dornoch exploration targets. A recent Competent Person Report from AGR Tracs assigns a mid-case of 25.8 MMBbls gross contingent resources. “

Mark Routh, chief executive of IOG: “The award of this rig contract by ATP with the Skipper appraisal well at the front end of the contract delivers on ATP’s and IOG’s strategy to bring Skipper to the point of a viable development. He added: “This allows us to drill our well with a top quality rig at a viable rate. IOG looks forward to working closely with ATP on this project.”

IOG says a site survey for an appraisal well was carried out in the third quarter 2011 with drilling and testing of the well scheduled for April 2013. After an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and geological and engineering studies, a Field Development Plan is due to be submitted for approval in the first quarter of 2014. Development drilling is scheduled for second quarter 2015 with first oil projected in the first quarter 2016.