What does it take of technology, environmental requirements and ground rules to open Nordland VI and VII?
One of the reasons why Lofoten and Vesterålen are such special areas is the fact that the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) is much smaller here than in the North Sea and the Barents Sea. It means that the resources are located closer to land than we are used to. This provides some important guidelines for how we best should develop the resources. We want to be a good neighbour to the industries already active in this area.
People’s idea of the oil industry today still involves huge offshore platforms. But the future of our industry lies below water, and most of our fields on the NCS are currently being developed with subsea installations.
Both Snøhvit and Ormen Lange are good examples in this respect. Above sea level there are no traces of these developments, which are both among Norway’s largest gas fields. Production is carried out on the seabed, in fully overtrawlable installations, before the gas is piped to land. This way, we do not occupy any area where the fishing or other industries are already present.
Since our operations in this area will be closer to land than in many other areas on the NCS, we will need to strengthen our oil-spill response system. Major progress has been made in this regard during the last years. One of the new technologies is infrared cameras that can spot oil even in the dark. This represents an important contribution to safe operations.
On the Goliat field, where Statoil is partner, we can now see how the emergency response system in the whole area will be considerably strengthened by a new standby vessel to be stationed on the field. It will help reduce the risk, not just with regard to our operations, but also the shipping activities. Oil-spill response plans for the field include the use of the fishing fleet, which is a good example of cooperation across industries.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate’s gathering of seismic data last summer was disputed. This underlines the need for proper ground rules at sea. We know that seismic activities are not harmful to fish, but we cannot hide the fact that seismic vessels need to gather new data for shorter periods of time. The good news is that the new data gathered will be sufficient for many years before we need to carry out new seismic surveys. It will take 8 to 10 years before new data is required. And by then the time needed to gather seismic data will be strongly reduced.
We envisage a special seismic regime in this area, where the companies cooperate to limit the data gathering to the extent possible. In reality we are talking about borrowing the sea for a couple of weeks at intervals of many years. I believe this is a good basis for discussing the ground rules for this activity.