Area of concern
06/01/2008 The NPD is keeping a close eye on the process of choosing a solution for Goliat. As the first Barents Sea oil project, the field could set a standard for further development in these waters.
Text: Eldbjørg Vaage Melberg. Photo: Jan Inge Haga.
A meeting on the Goliat development in the offices of operator Eni. Erik Abrahamsen, the NPD’s coordinator for this field, is on the right at the back in a green jumper. In the front, Synnøve Skeie also the NPD.
How Goliat might be brought on stream ranks as one of the key issues facing people in Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost county, at the moment. Questions needing to be answered include whether a production ship or platform should be installed on the field, or whether the unprocessed wellstream should travel to a terminal on land. Italian oil company Eni, the operator, and fellow licensees StatoilHydro and Det Norske Oljeselskap (DNO) are due to submit a plan for development and operation (PDO) fairly soon. Piping the wellstream ashore or utilising surface installations will then be a crucial choice, decided ultimately by profitability assessments. Jobs are the prime local concern. Goliat provides a good example of the way the NPD follows up licensees and production licences on the Norwegian continental shelf. When a discovery is to be developed, the agency monitors the planning process from the start. It has set up its own Goliat team of geologists, reservoir engineers, technology specialists and economists. The NPD’s job is to ensure that any development meets the requirements for good resource management and is rooted in concern for safety and the natural environment. A Goliat development is important for various reasons, not least its pioneering character in the Barents Sea and its impact on possible future projects in the region.
“It’s accordingly important that any solution is assessed in a wider area context,” explains principal engineer Leif Erik Abrahamsen, coordinator for the NPD’s work on Goliat.
“Another key issue is whether the field should be supplied with electricity from land. It’s important that all necessary studies are completed before the final plans are laid.”
Seven new exploration wells planned for the Barents Sea next year could affect the resource potential and provide guidance on how hydrocarbons in the area are best produced. “The results must be available before a decision is taken,” affirms Mr Abrahamsen. ”It’s useless calling for studies once the process has ended. “Our job as the regulator is to monitor that process and to call for answers to the challenges which come up along the way.” He emphasises that the NPD’s primary duty is to ensure good resource management and the largest possible value for the community.
“We’re a regulatory agency which draws its own conclusions on the basis of information in its possession and provided by the companies. “We apply the same analysis tools as the operator and the other licensees, but also incorporate all the other data from the area which aren’t necessarily available to every player. “The aim is to help achieve good, profitable overall solutions for society. Our recommendations are submitted to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) as part of the decision-making basis
for the politicians.”
One of the NPD’s most important duties is to follow up the various phases of projects on the NCS to ensure that the companies are doing their job and complying with statutes and regulations. These stages include the early
phase – before the MPE and the Storting (parliament) approve a PDO – as well as development and production.
“We have access to all company data for each field at every stage of its life, and also attend meetings in licences as observers,” says Mr Abrahamsen. “In addition, a company can be called to a one-to-one meeting. And we arrange contacts between the oil industry and research and development institutes to secure an overview of available technology and the need for further technical advances.” He emphasises the importance of NPD participation in processes on the NCS. But the level of activity is high, making it impossible to monitor all developments as closely as Goliat. “When developments on the NCS were few and large, we could be present at meetings in the various production licences,” says Erik Abrahamsen.
“Now there’s so many of them that it isn’t possible to be everywhere. But we receive all the underlying documents for every field, and performance indicator analysis for fields (Piaf) is becoming an important tool. “We otherwise give priority to fields which raise special issues, such as improved recovery, area assessment, or the choice between oil or gas production.”