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Norway's upstream oil output continues steep plunge in September

Highlights

Crude output down 13% on month, nine-month output down 8%

Equinor plagued by technical glitches amid focus on new projects

London — Norway's crude oil production plunged by 13% on the month in September and was down 8% on the year in the first nine months as technical difficulties and maintenance took their toll ahead of expected field start-ups in the next few years, figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate showed Friday.

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The country produced 1.30 million b/d of crude and 1.61 million b/d of liquids overall in September, continuing to fall short of the NPD's forecasts, as has happened throughout the year.

Over the first nine months, crude production was 1.48 million b/d and overall liquids output was 1.85 million b/d.

The NPD attributed September's shortfall to maintenance not accounted for in its forecasts.

However, state-controlled Equinor has suffered technical problems during the year at major fields such as Oseberg, Statfjord and Troll.

Its executive vice president for Norwegian development and production, Arne Sigve Nylund, told S&P Global Platts in late August that production was "back on track" after technical glitches, including problems with rotating equipment at several fields.

He stuck by company guidance of 5% annual decline rates for its Norwegian oil and gas fields, to be offset with new fields starting up, chiefly Johan Sverdrup, which is due on stream in November 2019.

Some in the industry suspect Norway's declines reflect a lack of investment in existing fields as Equinor focuses on its flagship projects, combined with a maximizing of production during the depths of the price downturn, a problem that may put pressure on Equinor to sell stakes in mature fields.

"What you often find is in times when the oil price is low all the taps are left open so production is blasting away but there's no underlying investment in the field itself," Faroe Petroleum CEO Graham Stewart told S&P Global Platts in late August. "If you're not investing in infill wells, or debottlenecking or whatever, because you're trying to save money, then you're storing up a problem."

UK oil output has been more stable by contrast; industry group Oil & Gas UK has forecast a 4% increase in the country's oil and gas production this year.

--Nick Coleman, nick.coleman@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@spglobal.com