April 1, 1998
The Banff Ramform FPSO steaming into Tyneside for its topsides fit-out. [18,726 bytes] Location of the proposed unitized Freja Field development. [16,361 bytes] Norway's government has put a one-year block on 12 new offshore projects in an attempt to slow down the country's booming economy. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said estimated Norwegian sector investments this year were 24% above its budgeted spending limit, at NKr 67 billion. Now spending is predicted to slide by a total
Jeremy Beckman

Norway puts 12 developments on hold

Norway's government has put a one-year block on 12 new offshore projects in an attempt to slow down the country's booming economy. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said estimated Norwegian sector investments this year were 24% above its budgeted spending limit, at NKr 67 billion. Now spending is predicted to slide by a total of NKr 17 billion during 1999.

The delay applies to four Statoil-operated projects and three of Saga's. Others hit include Amoco's Valhall water injection scheme and, less time-critical, Norsk Hydro's Fram and Grane. The projects will not be forcibly ground to a halt - they will be approved, and contracts can be signed, but no monies can be committed until 1999. New pipeline investments and onshore facilities, however, can proceed as planned.

The two major postponements are Statoil's Gullfaks Satellites Phase 2 and Saga's Snorre B - so major, that the government was preparing to issue a special White Paper on them. Snorre B involves development of the field's northern reservoir, allied to gas and water injection. Saga's initial reaction was that deferring injection could deflate pressure in both the northern and currently producing southern reservoirs, ultimately restricting oil recovery. However, it switched to a more conciliatory tone following confirmation of the government's plans, claiming that 1998 would now be used for "optimization studies."

Kv?rner and Aker Maritime may feel less sanguine, having just previously been awarded the NKr 5 billion contract to build the production semisubmersible. Nor is it certain that the Storting will pass the legislation, given that the new government is a minority coalition. Not everyone is of the view that Norway's yards can adjust so easily to a sudden curtailment of their workloads.

One development where the partners at least have reached agreement is Freja on the Norwegian/Danish median line. This is the new name for the adjoining Mjoelner and Gert fields, where combined reserves are estimated at over 20 million bbl of oil, lying in a reservoir 5,000 meters below the seabed. Under the planned NKr 1 billion scheme, the oil and associated gas will be produced by a normally unmanned wellhead platform probably tied back to Amoco Norge's Valhall facilities, with exports beginning in 2000, assuming government approvals.

Ramform upgrade raises PGS costs

Conoco's Banff Field Ramform FPSO arrived at Aker McNulty on Tyneside, UK following the long voyage from builder Hyundai MIPO in South Korea, using its own thruster power. Tugs had to assist the passage through the Suez Canal owing to the vessel's broad delta shape.

Project supervisor PGS expects the final investment to rise by a further $90-100 million following the decision to lift topsides processing capacity to 95,000 from 60,000b/d. This is needed to accommodate crude from other fields in the area, expected to be brought onstream through tiebacks to the Ramform as Banff production depletes. PGS is leasing the vessel to Conoco, and will also manage the Banff reservoir through its producing life - currently set to start this summer, a little behind schedule.

Delays to another "vessel of the future," Allseas' large-diameter pipelayer Solitaire led to Statoil reallocating the 16-km Ekofisk bypass line contract to ETPM. The latter's LB200 laybarge had a couple of weeks to spare this month before embarking on its major assignment this season, the 719-km ?sgard gas export trunkline.

Solitaire should, however, be ready to start work on the Europipe II trunkline next month, following sea trials and thruster installations. The vessel was also lined up to lay new Norwegian gas pipelines from Gullfaks South, Heidrun, Huldra, and Norne in 1999-2000, along with Allseas' Lorelay. The timing may have changed, as all these projects are on the government's current hit-list.

No seabed slumber for Euro platforms

Dumping at sea of all platforms save large concrete installations may be outlawed in European waters following an OSPAR convention in Lisbon this July. The European Commission has recommended that nearly all the continent's 600 offshore fixtures should be removed to shore for decommissioning following shutdown. European Union ministers

will be asked to back the proposal at the OSPAR meeting.

Shell's Brent Spar and Phillips Norge's Ekosfisk are the major platform disposals upcoming, but some subsea facilities also have to be dealt with. The latest were at BP/Conoco's Donan Field in UK Blocks 15/20a and b, where production ceased last December. Since coming onstream in April 1992, 15.3 million bbl of oil had been gleaned using the 250-meter-long, 76,000-dwt Seillean, a combined production, storage and tanker vessel. The vessel has been sold to Reading and Bates, which is thought to be lining up a new application offshore Brazil.

Donan's production came from two subsea wells via a jointed rigid steel riser. Two further unsuccessful horizontal wells were drilled in 1995. These were plugged and abandoned by the CSO Seawell, which also removed the two subsea completions to shore this February for recycling or re-use.

Elf Norge also has to dispose of three templates on East Frigg. It has proposed to the Norwegian authorities removal for recycling into nails, followed by evacuation of the associated pipelines. These lines would then be cleaned and covered with gravel to make them safe for trawl nets.

Gulf Canada to exit Britain

Clyde Petroleum UK's assets are to be sold to help parent Gulf Canada Resources cut its C$ 2.8 billion debt. The asking figure of C$500 million is just under half what Gulf paid for Clyde a year ago following a bitter battle. On offer are UK North Sea production interests totalling 19,000 b/d, plus a couple of strong development leads, one thought to be a prospective tie-back to Kerr-McGee's Gryphon floater.

Clyde's Netherlands holdings will be retained. This division has been steadily amassing Dutch sector acreage through trade-outs to go with its operated production. Some of the new acreage is along the routes of proposed new Dutch offshore gas trunklines. Close to one of these routes, Wintershall has just ordered a six-leg platform from Grootint in Zwijndrecht to tap gas in Blocks D/12 and D/15, and has also taken bids from contractors for Germany's first offshore gas development, in blocks A/6, and B/4.

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