Norwegian Petroleum Directorate Reports High Activity in the First Six Months of the Year
Production on the Norwegian shelf is holding steady at a high level. Many projects are in the development or planning phases.
Many exploration wells are being drilled. There have been few discoveries in the first half of the year.
Total petroleum production in the first half of 2019 is about 109,6 million standard cubic metres (Sm3) of oil equivalents (o.e.). Of this, around 38.1 million Sm3 is oil, 61,4 billion Sm3 is gas and 10.1 million Sm3 is NGL and condensate.
Gas sales are in line with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate’s (NPD’s) forecast, while oil production is somewhat lower.
Production on some fields is exceeding the forecast, while others are producing less.
Maintaining stable production demands considerable efforts from all parts of the industry.
So far this year, 76 new development wells have been spudded, somewhat fewer than at the same time last year. Drilling wells is the single most important measure to increase recovery. That is why identifying new drilling targets and drilling more wells is crucial.
There were 84 producing fields as of 30 June; 64 in the North Sea, 18 in the Norwegian Sea and two in the Barents Sea. The Oda field in the North Sea started production on 16 March this year.
The Aasta Hansteen field in the Norwegian Sea started production at the end of 2018.
To date, no fields have ceased production in 2019.
Development and operation
In addition to Oda which is operated by Spirit Energy, we also expect the Skogul (Aker BP) and Johan Sverdrup and Utgard fields in the North Sea, as well as Trestakk in the Norwegian Sea, to come on stream during the course of the year. The last three fields are operated by Equinor.
Overall, production from the Norwegian shelf is stable, safe and energy-efficient with low emissions to air and sea compared with other producing countries.
“These six months have also seen a lot of good work on the fields to create value for the Norwegian society,” says Ingrid Sølvberg, Director of development and operations in the NPD.
“The companies will also have the important future task of operating the fields efficiently, and developing, testing and utilizing new technology while continuing efforts to improve recovery and reduce emissions.”
There are 21 development projects in progress; 14 in the North Sea, six in the Norwegian Sea and one in the Barents Sea. These projects represent diversity with new facilities, smaller discoveries that exploit existing infrastructure and major projects for improved recovery from mature fields.
There are still many discoveries that have not yet submitted a Plan for Development and Operation (PDO) to the authorities. The NPD expects that development plans will be submitted for more projects over the next six months.
In the first half of 2019, the authorities approved the PDO for Johan Sverdrup Phase 2 and the PDO for Phase 2 of Gullfaks Shetland/Lista.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy also approved the development plans for Duva and the Gjøa P1 project in late June, both operated by Neptune Energy, as well as for Lundin’s Solveig development.
Total investments for these three projects amount to more than 16 billion kroner, and the total recoverable resources are estimated at more than 27 million Sm3 o.e.
On July 1, Conoco Phillips submitted a PDO for Tor II in the North Sea. This is a redevelopment of a field that was in production earlier.
Exploration activity on the Norwegian shelf is high, and the companies are exploring both near infrastructure and in less mature areas.
The NPD expects that more than 50 exploration wells will be drilled in 2019. This is just as many as in 2018. Most of the wells being drilled in 2019 are wildcat wells, while in 2018 there was an almost equal number of wildcat and appraisal wells.
Discoveries have been made in just six of the 22 wildcat wells drilled so far this year. None of the wells in the Barents Sea Southeast have been a success as of yet, but there have also been several wells in mature areas that have not delivered.
“Conventional exploration targets in many mature areas have already been tested, and the companies are now trying out new types of exploration targets with several unknown factors in these areas as well. Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that the discovery rate has fallen somewhat,” says exploration director Torgeir Stordal.
“There is considerable diversity in the exploration concepts being tested. This reflects our diverse player landscape and the fact that the companies have creative geologists and geophysicists,” says Stordal.
“Even though the probability of discovery is low in many exploration targets, the upside can be significant if discoveries are made. It will be exciting to follow the results in the second half of the year.”
30 exploration wells have been completed in the first six months – 22 wildcat wells and eight appraisal wells. Six discoveries were made; four in the North Sea and two in the Norwegian Sea.
Aker BP, operator of production licence 869, has made the largest discovery so far this year. The company has discovered gas and oil in the “Froskelår” prospect where the preliminary volume estimate is between 10 and 21 million Sm3 of recoverable oil equivalents. The discovery is located near the Alvheim field in the North Sea.
Equinor, operator of production licence 159 B, has made an oil and gas discovery southwest of the Norne field in the Norwegian Sea. A preliminary estimate of the size of the “Snadd Outer Outer” prospect is between 0.4 and 10 million Sm3 of recoverable oil equivalents.
The drilling of an appraisal well was halted due to technical problems; there is therefore a considerable range of uncertainty regarding the recoverable volumes.
Equinor, operator of production licence 120, has made a minor oil discovery near the Visund field in the North Sea. Preliminary estimates place the size of the discovery between 2.0 and 4.5 million Sm3 of recoverable oil.
Equinor, operator of production licence 199, has also made a small gas/condensate discovery near the Kristin field in the Norwegian Sea. Preliminary estimates place the size of the discovery between 1 and 4 million Sm3 of recoverable oil equivalents.
A minor discovery has also been made in production licence 248 C near the Fram field, as well as a small oil discovery in production licence 340 south of the Alvheim field.
At the end of June, drilling was under way in seven wells, and 25 to 30 exploration wells are planned for the second half of 2019.
The total number of exploration wells in 2019 will probably be around 35 in the North Sea, 15 in the Norwegian Sea and six in the Barents Sea.
Awards in predefined areas (APA)
The industry has shown great interest in the most recent APA rounds. In mid-January, 33 companies were offered a total of 83 new production licences in APA 2018.
38 companies applied for ownership interests. Of these 83 production licences, 37 are in the North Sea, 32 in the Norwegian Sea and 14 in the Barents Sea. 18 of the production licences are additional acreage for existing production licences.
APA 2019 was announced in May, and the application deadline is Aug. 27, 2019.
Since APA 2018, the predefined areas have been expanded by five blocks in the North Sea, 37 blocks in the Norwegian Sea and 48 blocks in the Barents Sea. Awards are expected during the first quarter of 2020.
Source Energy was prequalified as a licensee in the first half of 2019, and prequalification assessments have been made of Inpex Norge and Chrysaor Norge as operators.
The authorities are also processing applications from five other companies that have sought prequalification as licensee or operator (op). These companies are: Japex, NCS E&P, Edge Petroleum, M Vest Energy (op) and Antares Norge.
One of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate’s tasks is to maintain an overview of the petroleum resources across the entire Norwegian continental shelf.
The NPD therefore works continuously to map potential resources both in opened and unopened areas with the objective of obtaining a good factual basis for future decisions.
The NPD also received funding for this purpose in 2019. During the course of this autumn, seismic will be collected in the northeastern part of the Barents Sea.
Full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS)
In January 2019, the authorities awarded the first-ever permit to utilise an area for injection and storage of CO2. The area is located near the Troll field in the North Sea.
As is the case in awards of production licences for petroleum activity, the NPD is an adviser to the Ministry in connection with award of exploitation permits.
The permit was awarded to Equinor who, along with its partners Total and Norske Shell, will mature a storage concept for CO2. The NPD will follow up the project up to the submission and processing of the PDO/PIO.
The NPD participates in the Expert forum for comprehensive management plans.
The expert forum is an advisory group in the work on comprehensive and ecosystem-based stewardship of the sea. It is responsible for preparing the overall technical basis for updating and revising the management plans.
This work is done in collaboration with the group for monitoring marine ecosystems (the Monitoring Group). The technical part of this work concluded with a consultation conference in Tromsø on May 28. The schedule calls for presenting the plan to the Storting (Norwegian parliament) in the spring of 2020.
Petroleum activity in the High North
This spring, the NPD presented its report on Petroleum activity in the High North. The report places petroleum activity in the north into a historical, international and technological perspective.
“We hope the report can contribute to a knowledge-based approach to the debate,” said Director General Bente Nyland when the report was released in April.
The objective of the report has been to contribute experience from petroleum activity under different climatic conditions in the northern areas.
The new statute relating to mineral activity on the continental shelf (the Seabed Minerals Act) came into force on July 1 of this year.
The NPD has collected relevant data and samples from the Norwegian shelf in recent years, and published results from analyses of the mineral samples this spring. These analyses reveal a high content of both metals and rare-earth elements.
In cooperation with the University of Bergen, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate is taking part in an ongoing expedition to collect additional data and samples. A more extensive acquisition expedition is also being planned under the NPD’s auspices during the course of the summer.