Almost 40 years since the first discoveries of hydrocarbons in the North Sea, the country headed by King Harald V remains the undisputed European leader and one of the leading producers worldwide
A lot of water has passed under the Ekofisk oil rigs since 1973, since what for decades was to be the principal oil field in the North Sea, the real strength of Norwegian oil production, became operational.
Far off too are the glory days of the 80s and 90s, when the entrance onto the world market of maximum North Sea oil production – also including that of the UK, was a major factor in the recovery from the oil crises of the 70. Today, following a peak production of 3.4 million barrels a day in 2001, oil production in Norway dropped to 1.5 million barrels a day (bl/d) at the beginning of 2016.
A small but significant turnaround occurred in 2014, when production figures increased by 3%, mainly due to the continuous improvements of reflective seismic prospecting and the extensive exploration of ‘new’ blocks in the Norwegian and Barents Sea.
Today Norway is trying to understand whether this increase in production can be consolidated. A major contribution will come from the Johan Sverdrup field, discovered in the North Sea by Statoil in 2010 and scheduled to enter into production in 2019, with an expected peak production of 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day (boe/d).
Eni certainly plays a key role in this consolidation. The group has been active for years in the Norwegian Sea. Of the 112 thousand boe/d produced in 2014, 74% derive from 10 production licenses. The Barents Sea also has considerable resources to be developed, as demonstrated by the Goliat field.
And indeed, in terms of the Goliat field, Eni he has played a key role in developing and commissioning the first oil field in the Barents Sea, in an area free of ice, 85 kilometers northwest of Hammerfest. To enable a production that will touch on 100,000 bl/d in a field with estimated reserves of 180 million bl, the largest and most sophisticated cylindrical floating production and storage unit (FPSO) in the world – Sevan 1000 - built in the Hyundai shipyard at Ulsan, Korea, has been called in.
The extraction system is based on 22 subsea wells - 17 of which have already been completed - of which 12 are for production, 7 for injecting water and 3 for injecting gas into the field. Of the 100,000 barrels produced every day, Eni's quota comprises 65,000 while 35,000 will go to the Norwegian company Statoil.
According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate the Norwegian natural gas reserves amount to 1,85 thousand billion cubic meters (bcm). A figure that puts Norway in third place as world exporter. Production has more than doubled in 15 years, from 55 bcm produced in 2000 to more than 115 products in 2015.
This rise, due to the continuous development of North Sea resources, is liable to continue and to be bolstered by the major new discoveries in the Norwegian and Barents Sea. Above all the Ormen Lange field which already produces 70 mcm/d and Aasta Hanseen field, with estimated reserves of 47 bcm, and Snøhvit, with estimated reserves of 193 bcm.
95% of Norwegian production is for export. The gas is transported through an extensive system of pipelines to the UK, France, Belgium and Germany. Since 2007, in addition, Norway has exported a small part of its production as liquefied natural gas.
In 2014 Norway produced 141,9 billion kWh, 96% of which from hydroelectric sources. In the late 90s the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) instituted a combined electricity grid system under a unified market. In 2008 an electric cable was laid between Norway and the Netherlands, while similar connections with the UK and Germany are currently under construction. After oil and gas Norway is hence set to become an exporter of another key resource: Electricity.