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A modern-day oil fairy-tale in the North Sea

Before 2007, almost everyone had written off the Utsira High in the Norwegian North Sea, considering it un-prospective after 40 years of failed exploration. Today, however this is the most important area for new activity on the Shelf. New exploration prospects are being matured, exploration wells are being drilled, two fields have started production and two more are under development. In-depth knowledge about the subsurface is the foundation for all this activity.

The crucial piece of this puzzle was not identified until 2007; but once it was in place, geologists were able to understand where all of this oil – which they were certain had accumulated in the area – had migrated to.

The code crackers
Much of the basis for Lundin Norway as a company consisted of cracking the geological codes for the Utsira High. Most companies had already abandoned the area, certain that there was nothing more to gain here. However, a small group of exploration experts had a different opinion. They thought that petroleum deposits could hide under the limestone lid that covers much of the area, and that there could be a continuous petroleum system surrounding the entire High.

This theory was confirmed by the very first exploration well drilled by the company in 2007. The well encountered the reservoir in what would later be known as the Edvard Grieg field. It also contributed essential information to substantiate the idea that more discoveries could be made in the area.

Discovery after discovery after discovery ….
Edvard Grieg turned into a major stand-alone field development. The year after Edvard Grieg was discovered, Det Norske (now Aker BP) discovered Ivar Aasen in the neighbouring licence. The fairy-tale on the Utsira High was continuing to be written.

And then, in 2010, we made the discovery that truly picked up the pace of development. Not just on the Utsira High, but for the entire Norwegian oil and gas industry. The Johan Sverdrup discovery marked the beginning of what was clearly Norway’s largest industrial project in recent years.

Lundin has also made several other significant discoveries. Rolvsnes was discovered in 2009. Apollo in 2010. The Solveig field (previously known as Luno II) was discovered in 2013, while Equinor has the Lille Prinsen discovery (2018).

All phases simultaneously
Today, the status of the Utsira High is extremely interesting in a historical perspective. An area once written off as uninteresting now boasts activities in all phases of petroleum project maturity. Edvard Grieg was the first field to come on stream, with start-up in 2015. Now you can stand on the deck of the Edvard Grieg platform and see all of these phases at once.

The Leiv Eiriksson drilling rig is in the process of drilling two new exploration prospects; Jorvik and Tellus, situated just outside the Edvard Grieg reservoir.

The vessel Far Superior is conducting seabed surveys to find pipeline routes for the Solveig field development. Solveig is situated to the south of Edvard Grieg and is being developed as a subsea installation that will be tied to Edvard Grieg.

In parallel with the development of Solveig, provisions are also being made for a long-term test of the reservoir on Rolvsnes. This is a discovery that was made in weathered and fractured basement rock. Production from this type of reservoir has never been done before on the Norwegian Shelf, but has been achieved in many other mature hydrocarbon provinces around the world. That is why more knowledge must be acquired about how the reservoir will behave in a production phase before a decision can be made as regards what a potential development will look like.

Biggest of them all
A little further out on the horizon, one can glimpse the field centre on Johan Sverdrup starting to take shape. The first development phase consists of an impressive four platforms. The last modules have just recently been lifted into place. Before production can commence toward the end of the year, a substantial amount of painstaking work remains to connect many kilometres of cables and pipes, and to test all the systems that will control and monitor production and ensure overall safety. Equinor is the operator for both development and operation of Johan Sverdrup. This gigantic project has had smooth sailing ever since the development project started in 2015.

Lundin Norway discovered the Johan Sverdrup field in 2010. Several appraisal wells were drilled in the subsequent years to determine the extent of the field. The current estimate indicates between 2.1 and 3.1 billion barrels of oil equivalents, making Johan Sverdrup one of the five largest discoveries ever made on the Norwegian Shelf. We have to go all the way back to the 1970s to find a discovery of a larger field.

Due to the enormous volumes and a reservoir that extends over about 200 square kilometres, Johan Sverdrup will be developed in multiple stages. When the first development stage reaches plateau production, 440,000 barrels of oil equivalents will be produced every day. This will increase to 660,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day after Phase 2 starts producing in 2022.

In addition to being responsible for the discovery, Lundin Norway is also the second largest owner in the field with an ownership interest of 22.6%. The other licence partners are Equinor (operator), Petoro, Aker BP and Total.

“Johan Sverdrup will definitely be the most important source of income for Lundin Norway for many years to come, and it is a manifestation of the company’s strategy of organic growth based on our own discoveries, says Kristin Færøvik, who is the company’s managing director.

“For us, Johan Sverdrup is truly a fantastic story. It’s just 9 years since our exploration department discovered the gigantic field, and now we are seeing installations in place offshore. The project is proceeding completely according to plan, and the first oil and gas will is expected to come on stream in November this year. This underlines the enormous significance of the Utsira High in the modern-day oil fairy-tale here in Norway,” says Kristin Færøvik.

Image: A lot of activities are visible from the deck at Edvard Grieg these days. The vessel Far Superior is preparing for installation of the pipeline for the Solveig field. At the upper right of the image you van see the rig Leiv Eiriksson drilling the Jorvik prospect.