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What's in a field name?

Release date:
15 January 2015
From Nordic fairy tales to Egyptian gods, there are a host of reasons behind field naming conventions around the BP world. BP Magazine looks at some of the unusual names in major production regions
Field names, such as Atlantis, appear on BP platforms and production vessels


PSVM logo

Field names in Angola are themed according to the block they are located in and are linked with the country. BP operates two blocks that have been named (others are still in development): 18 and 31. The fields in Block 18 have been named (in Portuguese) after semi-precious metals found in the country: Cobalto, Plutonio, Paladio, Cromio and Galio fields. Together, this cluster of fields is known as Greater Plutonio. Future development fields include Cesio, Platina and Chumbo.

In Block 31, there is the PSVM development area, which stands for Plutão, Saturno, Venus, Marte - the Portuguese names for four of our solar system’s planets. Although not directly connected to Angola, the planetary theme was chosen to reflect the fact that this is the world’s deepest development project.

Other themes for Angolan oil and gas fields include the nation's counties, trees, animals, vegetables, musical instruments and flowers. Naming fields after a country’s indigenous flora and fauna is also popular in Trinidad and Tobago, where BP’s fields are all named after local flowering trees, for example Mango, Cassia and Juniper.


Akhen logo

In BP Egypt, the current trend is to name fields after famous districts and railway stations in Cairo and Alexandria, Egyptian birds, greetings and mountains, for instance Salamat.

Many Egyptian fields have also been named after pharaohs and gods: Akhen is shortened from Akhenaten, who ruled for 17 years and was believed to be the father of King Tutankhamun; Satis - coming from Satet, who was the deification of the floods of the River Nile and was often pictured as a woman wearing the conical crown of Upper Egypt, known as the Hedjet, or with gazelle or antelope horns, or as an antelope; Taurt - also called Taweret or Thoueris, the benevolent protectress of fertility and childbirth; and Seth, from Set, a god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence and foreigners in ancient Egypt.

Gulf of Mexico

Over the years, a variety of themes have been used to name new prospects in the Gulf of Mexico - everything from rock bands to rivers. There’s no fixed time frame on how long a theme will last, although some last longer than others: a cheese and wine phase was short-lived. Other themes have included cars, beers and minerals. Currently, BP’s fields tend to be named after minerals, mountains and rivers.

Often, the team will try to pick a name that reflects what it sees in the seismic data. For example, the salt structure that lies over the Thunder Horse field resembles a horse’s head.

In some cases, multiple lease holders work on a field. In the early days, the Mad Dog prospect had multiple co-owners and names. It was known as Dylan (after Bob Dylan) in BP and Copernicus in Amoco (prior to its merger with BP). In the end, Mad Dog - chosen by another of the co-owners - stuck.


Valhall logo

Typically, Norwegian fields were named for the country’s history, fairy tales, locations and traditions. The Government changed this in 2011, however, with new guidelines that look for ideas that are rooted in Norwegian constitutional democracy, such as place names or events with symbolic meaning. Individuals can be used if they have contributed to the development or upheld Norwegian democracy.

The majority of BP’s fields follow the older naming conventions: Valhall, from Valhalla, which was the greatest hall in Idavoll, a stronghold within the great fortress of Asgard. Only the elite warriors - or einherjer - were admitted to Valhalla to celebrate their battles. Hod was the blind god of darkness and winter. Tambar was the name of the bow - according to the Faroese ballad Ormurin Langi - belonging to Einar Tambarskelvir, an influential Norwegian nobleman and politician during the 11th century.

Skarv is named after a local type of cormorant, although it was initially known as Donnatello, as a composition of Dønna - an island just off Helgeland - and tellus, the Latin word for ‘the Earth’. The lack of ‘ø’ in the English language led to the name change.

The Ula field takes a different approach and is said to be named after a famous Norwegian pilot and the HNoMS Ula - a British-built U-class submarine that was transferred to the exiled Royal Norwegian Navy during the Second World War.

UK North Sea

Magnus logo

The UK North Sea has one of the widest ranges of names, covering everything from Viking leaders to a Scottish mountain. Although the UK Government has some oversight in the naming process, ultimately, the decision is made by the local team.

Saints are popular. Mungo is said to have founded Glasgow and symbols of his four religious miracles feature in the city’s coat of arms. Marnock is from Saint Marnoc, who established the first church in Scotland. And Andrew is named for Scotland’s patron saint. Meanwhile, Magnus represents Earl Magnus Erlendsson of Orkney, a brave leader who refused to fight during a Viking raid.

Sometimes, the choice is very personal. BP geophysicist Ronnie Parr selected Kinnoull after the Scottish hill where he grew up. His father used to say that he would drill for oil in the back garden. Parr adds: “This was geologically nonsense as it is a big lump of volcanic rock, but I wanted to name the 2008 field discovery after Kinnoull to prove him right!” In 1993, Parr had also discovered the Schiehallion field, which he named after his favourite Munro (Scottish mountain) in Perthshire. In Gaelic, Schiehallion roughly translates as ‘fairy hill of the Caledonians’.

On other occasions, a field name has a poignant history. Harding (now owned by Taqa) was once named after the river Forth but after the untimely death of their general manager, David Harding, Aberdeen staff thought it a fitting tribute to rename it in his honour. There are some guidelines set by BP, however: no pub names, no best friends and no spouses’ names.

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