“The Norwegian continental shelf may historically be described as a giant offshore technology laboratory.”
That’s Jon Are Rørtveit, vice president and commercial director of the Offshore Northern Seas Foundation, talking about the unique dynamic and possibilities to be found off the Norwegian continental shelf.
Norway’s offshore exploration industry is well-established as an international exporter of smart technologies and innovative solutions.
Rørtveit said that was and is no accident.
“Favorable framework conditions have given E&P companies on the NCS incentives to carry out research and technology development,” he said.
The country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy encourages and facilitates such research, development and demonstration via research programs where both companies and research institutions may seek funding for specific projects.
“Technology and expertise have been important in realizing the assets on the NCS and will continue to do so,” said Rørtveit. “It relates to the entire value chain from exploration to developing resources in producing fields.”
ONS is a non-profit foundation and has over the past 40 years developed into one of the world’s leading meeting places for the energy industry. Its main event is a biannual conference, exhibition and festival that highlights the technical, managerial and governmental aspects of the NCS industry.
The Centrality of Digitalization
When it comes to the importance of that technology and expertise in realizing the assets on the NCS, as it relates to the entire value chain, digitalization is central to it all. It is an important piece of the puzzle and an example of how Norway can offer competence and a hub for technological development.
One such company at the forefront of these digital efforts is Equinor (formerly Statoil), which has established a Digital Centre of Excellence, and launched a digital road map. This map will help the company improve safety, reduce their carbon footprint, and increase both recovery and profitability.
In fact, it already has.
The use of digital solutions at fields like the Johan Sverdrup field is expected to contribute to the goal of a 70-percent rate of recovery from the field.
“The NCS has already seen its first unmanned platforms and platforms with remote control. We also have advanced systems in place for communication between installations. This makes it possible to move tasks from offshore to onshore, increasing efficiencies and cutting costs,” said Rørtveit.
Norway has several hubs and clusters working within these areas, keeping its industry at the forefront of these technologies. The work is being done at and under the Norwegian Technical University.
As for the challenges of exploration in the NCS, Rørtveit mentions recovery rates as a prime concern.
“Based on today’s cessation plans, more than half the oil originally in place will remain in the reservoirs. Hence, continued efforts to achieve a higher recovery rate are important.”
Rørtveit adds that maintaining low drilling and maintenance expenditure per well and per platform up against lower oil prices also represent key challenges.
“Good cost control and paying greater attention to new drilling methods, including automated drilling, could make it possible to produce a larger proportion of the resource base.”
Maintaining a healthy level of exploration activities, even in periods with lower oil prices, is critical to maintain a steady level of activities on the NCS.
“The recent developments in that respect have been very positive, with 53 exploration wells being spudded last year, compared with 36 in 2017.”
Environmental Progress in the NCS
Rørtveit explained that environmental and climate standards in the Norwegian petroleum industry are very high compared to those in other countries, both as a result of these policy instruments and joint initiatives between the authorities and oil companies on research, technology development and competence-building. New initiatives are introduced continuously, he said. In an international comparison recently, emissions per unit of oil and gas produced from the NCS are low.
“On the Norwegian Continental Shelf, a range of policy instruments, with CO2 taxes being an important one, ensure that actors in the industry take environmental and climate considerations into account during all phases of their activities, from exploration to development, operations and field cessation,” Rørtveit said.
In July 2018, for the first time ever, a licensing round for injection and storage of CO2 under the seabed was announced. Equinor, with its partners Shell and Total in the Northern Lights project have been given approval for a subsea reservoir in September. The goal is to realize a cost-effective solution for full-scale CO2 capture and storage in Norway, which is expected to lead to technology development in an international perspective.
Offshore Technology Conference
The NCS model for exploration and development will be discussed at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston in May, where Leif Sevland, president and CEO of ONS, Anders Opedal, executive vice president of technology, projects and drilling for Equinor, Ann Christin Andersen, chief digital officer for TechnipFMC, and Bente Nylan, director general of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, will focus on the current and future activity and provide insight into the actions the operators, service providers and regulators are making to secure long-term value creation.
In conclusion, the industry is well connected, through the application of advanced technologies and physical facilities. There is a long tradition of close collaboration, between the E&P companies, between the E&P companies and the supply and service companies and also between companies, the government and research institutions.
“Coupled with a predictable framework, political stability and active awards of acreage, the NCS is an attractive place to do business,” said Rørtveit.