Norwegian major Equinor will keep its gas-fired power plant at Mongstad operating until at least June 2023, postponing an earlier plan to close it this autumn.
The decision to delaying shutting the 150-MW facility in south-west Norway was framed as a response to calls from local energy authorities, including power grid operator Statnett, to ease pressure on electricity prices.
However, the move runs contrary to Norwegian ambitions to boost gas supply to Europe in response to the continent’s tightening supply situation.
“Statnett recently informed that they consider using the Mongstad combined heat and power plant until early June 2023 as a measure to address a very strained power situation,” Equinor’s press spokesperson for onshore processing plants told Upstream.
“We keep the gas turbine available, and we will continue our dialogue with Statnett as to how Mongstad… can contribute as a SAKS [security of electricity supply] measure.”
Increased export pledge
European nations are looking to Norway for additional gas as they try to wean themselves off Russian gas.
In May, the Norwegian Ministry of Energy & Petroleum vowed to boost exports to Europe to help it through the energy crisis amid deepening Russian supply cuts.
Norway’s gas exports were forecast to rise by 6% this year to 122 billion cubic metres as high prices incentivised and increased output across the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS).
In July, the ministry approved adjusted production permits for six key fields to increase gas output on the NCS.
These targets are still in place, although production remains flat.
A spokeswoman for Norway’s gas grid operator Gassco told Upstream: “In 2021, we delivered 113 Bcm natural gas through our pipeline system [to Europe]. In 2022, we expect to surpass our 2017 delivery record of 117 Bcm.
“To optimise gas exports is a continuous process, and, given the energy situation in Europe right now, our most important task is to transport the gas safely and reliably.”
The prospect of limiting the use of gas domestically has been questioned by some commentators, but it is not yet clear if the decision to extend operations at the Mongstad plant implies a lowering of expectations for additional gas deliveries to Europe.
Latest preliminary production figures for August 2022 reveal output actually declined 5% to 332.8 million cubic metres per day, from 350.5 Mcmd in July, according to data published by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate on Wednesday.
The ministry has not replied to Upstream’s request for a comment on whether Europe should expect any reduction in gas deliveries this winter due to the ramp-up at Mongstad.