Since production started on the Norwegian continental shelf in 1971, oil and gas have been produced from a total of 112 fields. At the end of 2019, 87 fields were in production: 66 in the North Sea, 19 in the Norwegian Sea and 2 in the Barents Sea. Overall production from these fields in 2019 was 214 million standard cubic metres of oil equivalents (Sm3 o.e.). This is about 19 per cent less than in the peak year 2004 and six per cent less than in 2018.
For the next few years, total production on the Norwegian shelf is expected to remain relatively stable. Production from new fields that come on stream will compensate for the decline in production from already producing fields. Production is assumed to increase from 2020, and it is estimated that production in 2024 will be close to the record-breaking year 2004. Crude oil production in 2020 will be somewhat lower than expected due to the authorities' decision to implement production cuts on the shelf. The government-determined cuts are being implemented to help accelerate the stabilisation of the oil market.
It is expected that the ratio between produced gas and liquids (saleable oil, NGL and condensate) will decrease slightly in the next few years. While mostly oil was produced in 2004, gas will account for almost half of the total production in 2024. In the long term, the number and size of new discoveries will be of crucial importance to the production level.
Historical and expected production in Norway, 1970-2024
Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate
At the end of 2019, 87 fields on the Norwegian shelf were in production. Several of the large, aging fields still have substantial remaining reserves. Moreover, the resource base for existing facilities increases when small, neighbouring discoveries are tied in to the existing infrastructure. The activity level on producing fields will remain high in the years ahead, and these fields will account for the bulk of production in the near future.
It is also possible to increase recovery from many of these fields beyond existing plans. About 150 projects are currently being assessed to improve recovery from existing fields. It is important for the licensees to find profitable ways of improving recovery and making operations more efficient on existing fields. In addition, existing and new commercially viable discoveries need to be tied in to existing infrastructure to utilise the production and transport capacity in mature areas in the years ahead.
See resource management in mature areas for more detailed information.
Production history and forecast distributed per resource category, 2015-2030
Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (Gas is normalized at 40 MJ)
With a high number of fields in production and several new fields coming on stream in the next few years, production is expected to remain relatively stable in the next few years. In the early 2020s, production is predicted to increase and stay relatively high for the next decade.
See article about production forecasts for more detailed information.
In 2019, the fields Oda, Utgard, Trestakk and Johan Sverdrup came on stream. At year-end, 13 field developments were ongoing: eight in the North Sea, four in the Norwegian Sea and one in Barents Sea.
In addition, there were about 95 discoveries that could be, or are being, considered for development at year-end. Most of them are small and will be developed as satellites to existing fields. Stand-alone developments are planned for the largest discoveries, but a number of smaller discoveries could build new infrastructure through collaborated development solutions.
In 2019, the authorities approved five plans for development and operation (PDO).
The table below shows the estimated reserves in fields under development.
Reserves in fields under development
All volumes in million Sm3 o.e.
Source: The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate
When Johan Sverdrup was proven in 2010, it was the largest discovery made on the Norwegian continental shelf for 30 years. Johan Sverdrup covers an area of about 200 km2, about half the size of the city of Oslo. The discovery was made in an area that has been regularly explored since the mid-1960s. Earlier exploration wells missed the deposit by only a few metres. This shows that there can still be large undiscovered resources in mature areas on the Norwegian shelf.
The field will be developed in several phases. The authorities approved the plan for development and operation (PDO) for the first phase in 2015. Nine years after the field was proven, production commenced in October 2019. The PDO for the second phase was approved in May 2019 and start-up of production is scheduled for 2020.
According to the operator, investment costs for the first phase will be around NOK 83 billion, and the estimated break-even price is less than 20 USD per barrel. The Johan Sverdrup field is located on the Utsira High, together with the fields Ivar Aasen, Gina Krog and Edvard Grieg. A joint area solution for supplying power from shore to these fields is to be established. This arrangement will be in place by 2022 at the latest. The investments for the second development phase, including the area solution, is around NOK 43 billion. The total reserves from the entire field are about 430 million Sm³ o.e., of which about 94 million Sm³ o.e. are related to the second phase. Johan Sverdrup is the third largest oil field on the Norwegian continental shelf, and production is expected to last for 50 years. The production is anticipated to be at its highest level in the mid-2020s, and will then account for about 30 per cent of the Norwegian oil production.
The discovery of Johan Sverdrup shows that the mature areas on the Norwegian shelf can still contain significant undiscovered resources of high economic value. This has helped to maintain a high level of interest in the “Awards in Predefined Areas” (APA) licensing rounds. A record high number of applications were submitted in APA 2017, and the interest was about the same for the last APA rounds.
In 2019, investment numbers increased to about NOK 150 billion, but they are expected to be lower in 2020. Starting in 2021, a further decline in investments is expected to around NOK 115 billion in 2022-2024. The lower level of investments expected in the coming years is influenced by a combination of Covid-19 and lower oil prices. Several ongoing projects, both related to new field developments and fields in operation, will nevertheless contribute to keeping the activity level relatively stable in the coming years.
See article about investments for more detailed information.
In the coming years, the petroleum industry will be impacted by Covid-19 and lower oil prices, and there is considerable uncertainty related to the level of activity on the shelf. Despite this, there will considerable activity in the industry and the petroleum industry will continue to be Norway’s largest and most important industry for the foreseeable future. New projects on fields in operation, as well as infill drilling, will result in a relatively high level of activity. In addition to the activities on existing fields, there are several new fields under development and others that are expected to be decided for development.