Statoil to 'pump up' Gullfaks spend

Set for upgrade: the Gullfaks B platform

Statoil is reported to be targeting additional investments totalling Nkr20 billion ($3.6 billion) on its veteran Gullfaks field off Norway as it seeks to boost recovery and curb the risk of further leaks from the high-pressure reservoir.

The state-owned operator is already pumping Nkr15 billion into four projects being implemented at the North Sea field with the aim of extracting another 142 million barrels of oil equivalent and extending its producing life.

Further projects are now being planned that would boost the investment figure to Nkr35 billion, including a new subsea facility and upgrades to the field’s three platforms – Gullfaks A, B and C – with the schemes still being matured by management, Teknisk Ukeblad reported.

The oil and gas field, which came on stream in 1986, may still be only halfway through its producing life, according to Gullfaks production chief Gunnar Nakken.

While the company remains tight-lipped on the additional investments, a spokesman said the already announced Nkr15 billion spending “may not be enough”.

As part of the existing investment, the company is spending Nkr3 billion on a subsea gas compression project at the Gullfaks South satellite field to lift recovery, which is seen as ground-breaking technology that could ultimately form the basis of a future so-called subsea factory on the seabed.

A further Nkr9 billion is being invested to install two new subsea templates for six additional wells over the next two years, while drilling equipment on Gullfaks B is to be upgraded at a cost of Nkr1.5 billion.

In addition, Statoil is reported to be using substantial sums on mapping the entire Gullfaks area to determine where reservoir pressure is highest on the field, where a series of gas leaks have put the operator under the safety spotlight.

Most notably, the operator was hauled over the coals by Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority following a serious leak on Gullfaks B in December 2010 that the agency said could have led to an explosion.

There have also been subsequent more minor leaks on the same facility and Gullfaks A, as well as drilling rig Songa Dee, as Statoil has grappled with reservoir pressure challenges.

The operator has been using water and gas injection to provide pressure support in the reservoir, that comprises the Brent, Cook, Statfjord and Lunde formations at a depth of between 1700 and 2000 metres.

Following the mapping exercise, Statoil intends to locate new wells around and to the side of high-pressure zones, as well as implement additional barriers, to minimise the leak risk. The number of injection wells will also be increased.

The field, located in production licences 050 and 050B in a water depth of up to 220 metres, is operated by Statoil with a 70% stake, with state holding company Petoro on 30%.

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