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Oil and gas operations in the North Sea

For decades, the North Sea has been one of the world’s most secure areas for global oil and gas production.

by Nick Lovering, Assistant Editor, Pipelines International

The North Sea is divided between the five countries that border it: the UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Covering approximately 750,000 km² it features hundreds of oil and gas reservoirs, and an intricate series of pipelines which transport oil and gas onshore and into retail markets.

Norway’s share of the North Sea, known as the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS), follows the coast of Norway to the Artic Ocean in the north, and encompasses the Norwegian and Barents Sea. The shelf covers an estimated 2,039,951 km2 – almost 6.5 times the land area of the mainland. Plentiful resources in the area have made Norway an important player in the international recourses market.

Since production started on the NCS in 1971, oil and gas has been produced from 102 fields, with 80 fields still in production and 34 operators working across the area at the end of 2016. Production currently runs across a combined total of 39 gas and oil pipelines. In the 40 plus years since activities began, it is estimated that 48 per cent of total recoverable resources on the NCS has been produced and sold. However, large sources remain, and it is expected that production will continue to be prevalent for at least the next 50 years.

The majority of natural gas pipelines in the region are managed by the state-owned organisation Gassco AS, which acts as the neutral and independent operator, and is responsible for transporting Norwegian gas to continental Europe and the UK through an 8,300 km network.

One of the oldest pipelines in the system is the Norpipe gas pipeline which delivered the first dry gas from the NCS to the European market in 1977. The 443 km, 36 inch pipeline transports gas from Ekofisk to the Norsea Gas Terminal in Emden, Germany.

The longest gas pipeline in the region is the Franpipe system, which began operations in 1998. It traverses an 840 km route from the Draupner E riser platform, 160 km offshore Norway, to Dunkirk, France.

Unlike gas transportation in the region, at this stage there is no integrated system of oil pipelines and terminals on the NCS. Instead, the infrastructure is divided into four systems connected to terminals at Sture, Mongstad and Kårstø in Norway and Teesside in the UK. As a result, the owners and users negotiate agreements on access to oil transport infrastructure between themselves; for instance, negotiating on the use of infrastructure on the fields, which are governed by the regulations relating to the use of facilities by others.

Statoil Petroleum AS is the major pipeline operator in the region, with eight pipelines, ranging in length from 16 km to 245 km. ConocoPhillips Skandinavia AS is the operator of the longest and oldest pipeline, Norpipe Oil, which transports oil on a 354 km journey from Ekofisk to Teesside UK.

New players enter the market

One of the largest independent oil companies in Europe, Aker BP ASA, is the operator of the Valhall, Ula, Ivar Aasen, Alvheim and Skarv fields in the NCS. Aker BP ASA is a joint venture (JV) between Aker ASA (40 per cent), BP (30 per cent), and with others shareholders making up the final 30 per cent.

The JV recently announced it had come to a long-term agreement with ABB for the supply of an electrical, instrument, control and telecommunications (EICT) equipment. The agreement covers the design, procurement, and installation of the EICT system, with the aim of increasing the productivity, quality, flow, and efficiency throughout the value chain, increasing creation value and competitiveness while minimising the time it takes to deliver the
final product.

The agreement has a duration of six years, with the option for an additional four years, and is anticipated to boost competitiveness on the NCS. Aker BP will use a more integrated project delivery model – a ‘Platform Alliance’ – to run field-development projects; by working as a unified team, it will aim to reduce costs and to remove non-value-added activities.

Outside of the NCS, Geoscience and engineering service provider Next Geosolutions recently expanded its presence in the North Sea region with the acquisition of UK-based marine resource company RMS Submarine Ltd. This will see the company boost its presence in the UK’s share of the North Sea.

Next Geosolutions multidisciplinary expertise includes professional services in marine science and offshore engineering, survey and monitoring services, data mining, 3D modelling, diagnostic and structural monitoring, and reconstruction of underground networks. Next Geosolutions used and developed these services while it was involved in the nearshore survey and inspection of the Trans–Mediterranean (Transmed) pipeline, a 2,475 km pipeline that runs from Algeria to Italy, via Tunisia and Sicily.

RMS provides clients with targets, cost-effective and time-sensitive resource management, and services aimed at allowing the successful execution and delivery of projects within the global offshore industry. RMS has previously provided support to Next Geosolutions during their 17-month project performing marine surveys for cable route design and engineering in the Baltic Sea.

The acquisition will allow Next Geosolutions to further build its presence in the North Sea and Baltic region, while focusing on the operations and maintenance market for the cables and renewables industries. It is expected that up to five new onshore positions and as many as 20 offshore roles are likely to be created in the next 12 months.

This article was featured in the June edition of Pipelines International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.

If you have news you would like featured in Pipelines International contact Assistant Editor Nick Lovering at nlovering@gs-press.com.au

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