How long Norway will be able to sustain its gas production depends on the resource base, governmental constraints, the companies desire to prove and develop new discoveries and the markets demand for gas.
Norway is the second largest exporter of gas to Europe. Only Russia exports more. Norway produced 25 percent of the total western European gas production in 2003. On a global scale, Norway is the seventh largest producer of gas, in spite of only having 1.3 percent of the world's gas reserves.
Up to now, Norway has exported 948 billion Sm3 gas. Only 15 percent of the total saleable amounts equal to six trillion Sm3 have been produced.
Production of gas started on the Norwegian shelf simultaneously with the oil production at Ekofisk, June 15, 1971. Gas exports however, did not start until 1977 through pipelines from Ekofisk to Germany and from Frigg to the U.K. Gas exports were between 20 and 30 billion Sm3 per year until the mid-nineties when Troll and Sleipner started production. Exports increased to today's level over 70 billion Sm3.
The assumptions of how much gas Norway can sell per year have increased as demand increased and new fields were developed. Six years ago it was assumed that gas levels would reach 80 billion Sm3 per year from the year 2006.
Today a scenario with 120 billion Sm3 per year is used. This means an increase of 50 percent and leads to a faster depletion of the gas resources than previously anticipated. Provided satisfying marked conditions, Norway will be able to deliver more gas than today for the next 20 to 50 years. The largest fields will produce less when reservoir pressure falls. When this occurs to a larger extent than new production comes on stream, the total production of gas will decline. We will however, be able to produce large quantities of gas during the next decades.
For how long we can sustain levels of gas production larger than today depends on how fast we develop new resources. The NPD continuously evaluates the production forecasts based on new decisions to increase production and based on new geological information regarding the resource base.
In addition to the uncertainty regarding the level of future gas sales, there is also large uncertainty with regards to the undiscovered volumes. The NPD's assessment of the undiscovered resources is based upon play analysis covering the whole Norwegian continental shelf, except for the area with overlapping claims in the Barents Sea and the continental shelf surrounding Jan Mayen. The expected value is estimated to 1 900 billion Sm3 with an uncertainty range spanning 1 300 - 2 660 billion Sm3. There is also a small possibility (20 percent) that the undiscovered gas resources will be less than 1 300 or larger than 2 660 billion Sm3.
Updated forecasts and resource figures can be found in the report: The petroleum resources on the Norwegian Continental Shelf - 2005.
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