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Norway's Johan Sverdrup oil giant producing well over 300,000 b/d, six weeks from start-up

London — Norway's giant Johan Sverdrup oil field is producing at rates "well above" 300,000 b/d, state-controlled Equinor said Tuesday, as official data showed the country's oil output starting to recover.

In emailed comments, Equinor said all eight of the production wells drilled before the 2.7 billion barrel field started producing on October 5 were now on stream, ahead of schedule.

The field is due to reach its first-phase production capacity of 440,000 b/d next summer, but Tuesday's statement implied it was getting close to that level already.

A loading schedule seen by S&P Global Platts suggested loading volumes will average nearly 400,000 b/d in December.

By the end of this year, Equinor intends to start drilling another 2-4 wells from a new fixed drilling platform, enabling the increase to first-phase capacity, the company said last month.

Johan Sverdrup, a surprise giant discovery made in the heart of the North Sea in 2010, is crucial to Norway's hopes of a recovery in its oil production, which has been prone to technical problems and decline in the last couple of years. A second phase of the project, due on stream in late-2022, is intended to raise production to 660,000 b/d.

The country's oil production sunk to 1.40 million b/d in June, at the height of the maintenance season, compared with annual output of 1.85 million b/d last year and 1.97 million b/d in 2017.

Data released Tuesday by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate showed monthly oil production at its highest level of this year in October, averaging 1.83 million b/d, including condensate and natural gas liquids.

Crude oil output, at 1.52 million b/d, was its highest since July 2018.

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

-- Edited by Daniel Lalor, newsdesk@spglobal.com