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Norwegian Aker BP oil and gas project start-up adds to Skarv revival

Transporte marítimo

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Norwegian Aker BP oil and gas project start-up adds to Skarv revival

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Norwegian venture Aker BP has started up the Grasel satellite oil and gas field, the latest in a series of satellite projects intended to greatly boost production in the Skarv area, which produces light crude, gas and natural gas liquids, the company said June 18.

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In a statement, Aker BP noted it had brought Grasel on stream well ahead of schedule, six months after the final investment decision, benefiting from the ready availability of a rig, and highlighted its growing ambitions for the Skarv area, from which crude is loaded directly onto shuttle tankers, with gas sent by pipeline to the Karsto terminal via the Asgard Transport System.

Skarv itself has been in decline, having come on stream in 2013; it produced around 14,000 b/d of crude, 12,000 b/d of natural gas liquids, and 3.2 Bcm of gas last year. But Grasel, at around 13 million barrels of oil equivalent, is just one of a number of projects either under development or planned in the area that should provide a major production boost, Aker BP said.

Skarv-branded crude has an API gravity of 48.2, making it significantly lighter than crudes in the Platts Dated Brent crude basket.

Alongside Grasel the company has been developing Aerfugl, an oil and gas project with much greater reserves than the original Skarv field, estimated at around 300 million boe. Aerfugl came on stream in April 2020 and crude output had reached 16,000 b/d by April 2021, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, with further wells still due on stream.

"Start-up for Aerfugl and Grasel will take Skarv back to a plateau production of over 170,000 b/d," Aker BP said. It did not immediately respond to a question on whether this estimate also includes gas output.

Aker BP's vice president for Skarv area development and operations, Sverre Isak Bjorn, outlined a number of projects he said could be fast-tracked to take advantage of temporary tax breaks announced by Norwegian authorities in response to last year's price crash and due to expire at the end of 2022.

"We're maturing several development projects with the objective of making investment decisions by the end of 2022. The ambition is to phase in production from these developments over the next four-to-five years. As of today, the Shrek, Idun Nord, Alve Nord and Orn discoveries are included in our 'Skarv Satellite project'," Bjorn said.

The company noted a 25-day shutdown at Skarv that lasted into early June had upgraded the Skarv facility's gas handling capacity. "This also means a further increase in capacity to accept production from other discoveries in the area," it said.

CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik highlighted the speed of the NOK1.2 billion ($140 million) Grasel development, which relies mainly on existing Skarv facilities and still requires drilling an injection well to maintain pressure levels. "This must be one of the fastest projects ever executed on the Norwegian shelf," he said.

Carbon efficiency

Aker BP, a company listed in Oslo with BP and engineering giant Aker as its largest shareholders, is the operator for the Skarv area with a stake of nearly 24%, although state-controlled giant Equinor and Germany's Wintershall Dea both hold larger stakes, of 36.2% and 28% respectively, while Poland's PGNiG holds a stake of just under 12%.

PGNiG CEO Pawel Majewsik said in a separate statement: "The Grasel project proves that even relatively small fields can be valuable assets, providing a very attractive return on investment and a reduced carbon footprint."

"The location of Grasel in an area where there is already a well-developed infrastructure not only reduced the cost of developing the field, but also shortened the development time."

"Increased utilization of the existing infrastructure also means a reduction in greenhouse...emissions per each unit of hydrocarbons extracted in the region," he said.

PGNiG has moved to increase its Norwegian upstream presence ahead of the completion of the 10 Bcm/year Baltic Pipe, to bring Norwegian gas via Denmark to Poland.

It aims to maximize the contribution of its own equity production to gas volumes that will flow from Norway to Poland. Baltic Pipe was due for completion in October 2022 but faces delays after Denmark withdrew the construction permit for its section on environmental grounds. Denmark in December 2020 implemented a ban on new exploration and said it would end oil and gas production from the North Sea by 2050 as part of efforts to become "climate neutral."