OSLO, April 24 (Reuters) - The start of Norway's 2.3 billion barrel Johan Sverdrup oil field may be delayed and costs could exceed forecasts but the project could break even at about half of the current oil price, authorities said on Friday.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said the startup could be delayed by six months to mid-2020 and costs could run 10 billion Norwegian crowns ($1.28 billion) higher as operator Statoil did not sufficiently plan for schedule and cost overruns.
"The Oil Directorate believes the schedule for the first phase is ambitious compared to comparable projects in the petroleum industry," the Ministry said.
"Even with the Directorate's higher cost estimate, this is well within the uncertainty interval given the (operator's) plan for development and operations of plus or minus 20 percent."
The first phase of Sverdrup, also owned by Lundin Petroleum , Maersk, Det norske and state holding firm Petoro, was expected to cost 117 billion crowns.
The oil ministry said that based on Statoil's analysis, the development's first phase has an expected net present value before tax of about 270 billion 2015 crowns, giving it a break even price of $32 per barrel of oil equivalent, compared with Statoil's previous guidance for under $40 per barrel.
A chance discovery in relatively shallow waters near existing infrastructure, Sverdrup will have some of the lowest costs for an offshore development, making it a lucrative investment even after crude oil prices price tumbled to around $65 per barrel now from around $110 last June.
The first phase of Sverdrup is estimated to produce 1.86 billion boe, while recoverable resources of a full field development is estimated at 2.3 billion boe, nearly the midpoint of Statoil's 1.7 to 3.0 billion boe range. The second phase is expected to start in 2022.
($1 = 7.8380 Norwegian crowns)
(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Ole Petter Skonnord; Writing by Balazs Koranyi)
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