Investments for the future on the Shelf
09/01/2023 Only rarely have we seen so much oil and gas produced on the Norwegian shelf as was the case last year – and only rarely have we seen such significant investment decisions.
Norway has fortified its role as a predictable, long-term supplier of energy to Europe.
2022 was a year marked by the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. These factors also impacted activity on the Norwegian shelf. The disappearance of Russian gas on the European market has increased the importance of Norwegian gas exports and caused Norway to become the largest single supplier of gas to Europe by the end of last year.
Gas production was nine billion standard cubic metres higher in 2022 compared with the previous year. A total of 122 billion standard cubic metres (Sm3) of gas was produced. Gas now accounts for more than half of production from the Shelf.
Some of the causes for this development are that the authorities granted permits to increase production from several fields, there was a high degree of operational stability, and the Snøhvit Field also came back on stream after a lengthy shutdown.
Numerous investment decisions for new projects were also made in 2022.
"These are really important investments for the future, which will help ensure that Norway can continue to be a reliable supplier of energy to Europe", says Director General Torgeir Stordal at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).
Stordal notes that this is good news for the Norwegian supplier industry, as well as for overall value creation and the welfare and prosperity generated from the resources on the Shelf.
Production is high, and it will continue to grow in the years to come. Gas production is projected to remain at around 2022 levels for the next four to five years.
A total of about 230 million Sm3 of oil equivalents were produced in 2022 – which corresponds to around 4 million barrels per day.
This consistent high production level can be attributed to three main factors, the first of which is the high number of producing fields on the Shelf (93).
The second phase of the Johan Sverdrup development came on stream in the North Sea in December. The Nova Field has commenced production, and Njord has started up following modification work. Several new fields are projected to start producing in the years to come.
And finally, older fields are producing longer, and producing more, than previously expected.
Norwegian petroleum activities are subject to a stringent framework for emissions to air and discharges to sea. New fields are either developed with an alternative power supply or tied back to existing infrastructure. The industry is also making good progress in energy efficiency measures. All of this helps ensure that emissions can be reduced even while production increases.
New development plans
A substantial number of decisions were made in 2022 regarding new developments that can help maintain the production level. The authorities received plans for 13 new developments (PDOs), as well as several plans for projects aimed at increasing recovery near existing fields or extending field lifetimes. Decisions have also been made to approve major investments on existing fields.
According to figures provided by the licensees, this entails total investments of around NOK 300 billion delivering an overall present value of NOK 200 billion. Together this amounts to a growth in reserves of 252 million Sm3 of oil equivalents, half of which is gas.
"It’s great that the industry is investing and making a commitment to developing the resources on the Norwegian shelf. Now we’ll expect the industry to demonstrate that it can implement these projects according to the plans, and thus lay a foundation for robust value creation and good resource management," says Stordal.
The largest new project is Yggdrasil (previously Noaka) in the North Sea, where investments are projected to reach NOK 115 billion. This development will establish new infrastructure on the Shelf.
"Good area solutions are incredibly important for the further development of the Norwegian shelf. Even small discoveries can become quite profitable if they’re tied into existing infrastructure," says Stordal.
32 exploration wells were completed last year, of which 28 were wildcats. They resulted in 11 discoveries. Some of these were smaller than expected, which caused a lower resource growth than in the three previous years.
"At the same time, I am pleased to see that companies have shown a willingness to drill exploration wells that carry greater risk when it comes to finding oil or gas. This is key to better understand the resource potential of the Shelf," says Stordal, who emphasises that the Lupa gas discovery in the Barents Sea, announced in December, is exciting.
The NPD expects the Barents Sea to hold significant undiscovered gas resources. A lack of infrastructure to export the gas has meant that the industry has been less eager to explore for gas in this area. More gas discoveries could make development profitable, alongside investments in infrastructure to solve the transport challenge.
In January 2022, 53 new production licences were awarded in the Awards in predefined areas (APA) 2021, and there was also substantial interest in APA 2022, where the application deadline was in September.
Increasing interest in carbon capture and storage
Advances were made in carbon capture and storage last year. Longship will become a reality. Meanwhile, two injection wells were completed in the Northern Lights project, and good progress has been made on the construction work at the terminal facility in Øygarden in Vestland county. Construction of the world’s largest CO2 transport ships is also under way.
There is growing interest in acreage for injection and storage of CO2. In 2022, the authorities awarded three exploration licences for storage of CO2, one in the Barents Sea and two in the North Sea. The initial objective of these licences is to determine whether these areas are suitable for CO2 storage.
The opening process for seabed minerals is under way
Options are being explored as regards potential profitable mineral activity on the seabed on the Norwegian shelf. The objective here is to determine whether this could help secure a future supply of important metals in the transition to a low-emission society.
The substantial efforts undertaken to enhance the basis of knowledge regarding seabed minerals continued in 2022.
The NPD has analysed data acquired from its own and other scientific surveys over a decade. This knowledge has led to a resource assessment.
The NPD has also assisted the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with an impact assessment in connection with the opening process for exploration for and extraction of seabed minerals. The impact assessment is currently available for public consultation.
Stordal wants to emphasise that significant resources remain on the Shelf, both in fields, in discoveries and in exploration opportunities: "The companies must continue to further develop the fields, in part by drilling more development wells. They should mature additional discoveries in their portfolios and take decisions to develop more of them. Moreover, they should continue to explore for new oil and gas resources. This is critical to ensure that Norway remains a reliable supplier of energy to Europe longer term."
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