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Norway raises emergency level, coordinating with armed forces over oil and gas drone threat


Government coordinating with police, armed forces, offshore operators

'Much indicates acts of sabotage,' minister says of Nord Stream leaks

Equinor says no connection between drones and Troll loading reductions

  • Author
  • Nick Coleman
  • Editor
  • Jim Levesque
  • Commodity
  • Natural Gas Oil

Norway is coordinating with its armed forces, police, and oil and gas industry operators as it raises its "emergency preparedness" following sightings of unidentified drones near offshore oil and gas facilities in the North Sea, energy and petroleum minister Terje Aasland said Sept. 27 in an emailed statement.

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It comes amid heightened European tensions over the war in Ukraine. Aasland also echoed claims that leaks from Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea may have resulted from sabotage.

Following sharp reductions in Russian supply, Norway is now Europe's largest gas supplier, accounting for around a quarter of the region's supply.

On Sept. 26, the offshore safety regulator said there had been a number of sightings of unidentified drones or aircraft inside the safety exclusion zones that surround oil and gas facilities, raising the risk of explosions, helicopter collisions or of "deliberate attacks."

In the latest statement, Aasland said: "There has been close contact between the Norwegian government, the police, the Norwegian armed forces and the operators on the Norwegian continental shelf. On this basis, the government has decided to enact measures to heighten emergency preparedness in relation to infrastructure, onshore and offshore installations on the Norwegian continental shelf."

"Some of the background are reports of increased drone activity. An investigation is ongoing. On a general basis, there is a high awareness around operational safety on the Norwegian continental shelf."

The Petroleum Safety Authority earlier noted offshore oil and gas facilities are subject to an exclusion zone, usually extending 500 meters horizontally and vertically from the given facility.

Norway is generally seen as one of the world's most stable oil and gas providers. It is currently Europe's top oil and gas producer, producing nearly 2 million b/d of petroleum liquids from the North Sea and nearby waters along with almost 350 million cu m/d of gas.

Flagship Norwegian crudes Oseberg, Ekofisk and Troll are part of the Platts Dated Brent benchmark, produced by S&P Global Commodity Insights.

However, state-controlled Equinor late on Sept. 27 said there was no link between the drone threat and a reduction in expected crude loadings from the Troll complex announced earlier in the day. "This is not related," a company spokesperson told S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Pipeline 'sabotage'

The energy minister, Aasland, went on to echo the suspicions of sabotage raised after leaks were discovered in the Nord Stream pipeline system that runs between Russia's Baltic coast and the German coast. Norway does not have a Baltic coast, but is a neighbor of Baltic country Sweden as well as Russia.

On the ministry's website, Aasland said: "the Norwegian government follow the developments in the Baltic Sea, where there are gas leaks from Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. Based on the information we have seen so far, much indicates acts of sabotage."

Earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the leaks as "an act of sabotage related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine."

Dated Brent was assessed at $84.625/b on Sept. 26, down $0.66/b on the day, S&P Global data showed.