OSLO - The Norwegian government Friday approved development of the Total SA-operated Martin Linge field in the northern North Sea, although the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Agency warned that the French oil major's current well design is "not robust enough" against the reservoir's high pressure and high temperature.
The PSA's warning comes as Total is battling a natural-gas leak at the a high-pressure, high-temperature Elgin field, offshore Scotland.
Total E&P Norge spokesman Leif Harald Halvorsen said Martin Linge isn't comparable to Elgin, although they are both deep wells with high pressure.
"The [Martin Linge] field has its challenges, but these are different challenges than the Elgin field," Halvorsen told Dow Jones Newswires, adding that Total aims to have "a robust design on our wells" and will live up to Norwegian rules by the time drilling begins.
The PSA also said Total hadn't paid enough attention to the flow volume if it loses well control during drilling, according to government documents.
Total said it took these remarks seriously, and said that it is in talks with the authority and planning to improve the Martin Linge well design.
"We don't start drilling wells until the summer of 2014. We have the time until then to follow this through," said Halvorsen.
The untapped Martin Linge natural-gas field was discovered in 1978 and is estimated to contain 189 million barrels of oil equivalent. It is situated 150 kilometers from the coastline.
"The industry must be able to mature resources like this if we are to keep production levels up in coming years," said Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe in a statement.
The Norwegian Ministry for Petroleum and Energy declined to comment on the remarks from the Petroleum Safety Authority. The PSA couldn't answer questions Friday afternoon.
The planned production start for the field is fourth quarter 2016, and the production period is expected to last for 11 years.
The field is 51% owned by operator Total E&P Norge AS, partner Petoro AS owns 30% and Statoil Petroleum AS owns 19%. Some 26 billion kroner ($4.52 billion) will be invested in the field's development.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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