Statfjord subsea

person By Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
A discovery was made five kilometres north-east of the present site of Statfjord C in 1976, and another the following year 22 kilometres to the north. Dubbed the Statfjord satellites, their development represented a departure from the Condeep platforms used on the main field.
— Statfjord Nord subsea installations. Illustration: FMC Kongsberg Subsea
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Although both discoveries were considerably smaller than Statfjord, neither was negligible. Development plans were approved by the Storting (parliament) on 11 December 1990.  The most distant reservoir was named Statfjord North and lay in 250-290 metres of water, while Statfjord East had been found in 150-190 metres.

Satellite solution

Following the oil price slump in 1986, both the oil companies and the government agreed that more needed to done to reduce Norway’s offshore development costs. Production systems had to be simplified and their efficiency enhanced.

Greater attention was paid to investment and total life cycle costs. Questions included the cost of maintenance and whether equipment could be reduced or later removed. The latter consideration also had an environmental aspect.

Developing subsea installation offered an answer to some of these challenges. Existing production platforms, for example, could be supplied through remotely operated seabed systems.  A solution of this kind was first developed for the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) through the Skuld research project launched in 1980. The partners were Elf, Norsk Hydro, Statoil, the Norwegian Underwater Institute (NUI) and the Sintef research foundation in Trondheim.

Statfjord subsea,
Protective frame for underwater installation on the Gullfaks field is mounted and welded together at Kongsberg Weapon Factory. Photo: Olav Indreberg/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Through this project, it became possible to operate subsea installations remotely over a distance of more than 20 kilometres. Systems could be installed without diver assistance.  Statoil-operated Gullfaks became the first field on the NCS to adopt the system in 1986. A total of six seabed templates were installed and tied back without divers to the A platform.

Elf also applied experience from the Skuld programme to its development of East Frigg, one of the Frigg satellites. On stream in 1988, this involved three subsea templates and was the first wholly platform-free project in the Norwegian North Sea. That meant the technological foundation had been laid, and a number of discoveries were developed with subsea production systems during the 1990s.  As on Gullfaks, the Statfjord and Sleipner satellites were tied back to fixed platforms. Production floaters with associated seabed wells were chosen for Norne and Åsgard in the Norwegian Sea.

Subsea production facilities were also tied back to Yme in the North Sea, which had been developed with a jack-up rig, and the Heidrun tension-leg platform (TLP) in the Norwegian Sea.

Statfjord North and East

statfjord satelitter, forsidebilde, illustrasjon, Statfjord subsea
Illustration of Statfjord C with adjacent satellites. Illustration: Statoil

These two satellites were tied back to the main Statfjord field. Each was provided with two templates for production and one for water injection – a total of six structures with 18 Xmas trees.

Wellstreams from the producers flow through two pipelines to Statfjord C for processing, storage and onward transport. At the time the two satellites came on stream, they ranked as the world’s largest subsea production system.  This represented an eye-opening quantum leap for technology on the NCS. It was characterised by a close collaboration between Kongsberg Offshore – as the supplier of the subsea installations together with its sub-contractors – and operator Statoil, and between the various licensees. [REMOVE]Fotnote: Gjerde, Kristin Øye and Helge Ryggvik. North Sea divers in Norway , 2009, pp 317-318.

Gunnar Berge, then minister of local government and labour, performed the official inauguration of the Statfjord satellites on the C platform in 1995. His comments included the following:

“The government takes a positive view of the fact that Statoil, as operator for this project, has chosen a long-term form of collaboration with key suppliers. Giving the supplies industry a shared responsibility calls for trust between both sides. Trust can only be created through a long-term customer-supplier relationship because it builds on the security created through experience and communication.

“I regard it as constructive that the basis has been created here for a long-term collaboration over future deliveries and further development, which can yield substantial gains in forthcoming projects on the NCS. This will collectively help to strengthen Norway’s position in an international context, and thereby jobs in Norwegian industry as well.”

Standardised solutions

Berge was also pleased that standardised solutions were being developed:

“Standardisation is an important concept in this context. An increased diversity of technical solutions would represent poor economics if these are to be tailored to each individual case. It is accordingly particularly gratifying when solutions are developed which can not only fulfil the specific job they have been designed for but can also be used a building blocks in other and future field developments. [REMOVE]Fotnote: Gunnar Berge, minister of local government and labour, “Offisiell åpning av Statfjord satellitter på Statfjord C”. www.regjeringen.no/nn/dokumentarkiv/regjeringen-brundtland-iii/kad/Taler-og-artikler-arkivert-individuelt/1995/offisiell_apning_av_statfjord_satelitter-2.html?id=261427 

That was precisely what happened. An advantage of templates for subsea wellheads was that they could be brought on stream quickly once installed. A very solid reduction in development costs per well was seen on the NCS during the decade from 1986.

While each subsea well tied back to Gullfaks A had cost NOK 170 million, that figure was down to NOK 85 million for the Statfjord satellites in 1992. And the price sank further as even simpler and increasingly standardised designs were developed.

The cost per well for Norne came to NOK 45 million in 1994, for example. And the hinge-over subsea template (Host) modules developed achieved an additional reduction to NOK 30 million in 1996. By then, these structures had become so compact that they could be installed through the moonpool on a mobile drilling rig. [REMOVE]Fotnote: Statoil memo: “Viktige beslutninger for UTV-området i Statoil”, 1998.

Choosing the same development solution for a number of fields led to a greater degree of coordination. A tool pool was established, for example, so that installation equipment and spare parts could shared between fields utilising the same technical design. That led to substantial savings. Other licences began to choose the same design for their subsea installations.

Oil was proven in Statfjord’s north flank during 1996. It was decided to develop this area of block 33/9 with two Host modules. FMC in Kongsberg won the contract and fabricated the Xmas trees at Dunfermline in the UK. The electro-hydraulic control system for six trees and a maximum of eight wells was produced as Kongsberg. Production from the north flank was controlled from Statfjord C. [REMOVE]Fotnote: www.fmctechnologies.com/en/SubseaSystems/GlobalProjects/Europe/Norway/StatoilStatfjordNordflanken.aspx .

Produksjonsstart Sygna, forsidebilde, historie, Statfjord subsea
Sygna field plan. Illustration: Equinor

Sygna was also proven in the north-eastern part of the Statfjord area during 1996. Fifty-five per cent of this oil field lies in Statfjord block 33/9, and 45 per cent in 34/7 (the Snorre block). It was approved for development in 1999, and began producing in 300 metres of water on 1 August 2000.

A development solution based on a subsea template was again chosen for Sygna, with three production wells tied back by a 22-kilometre flowline to Statfjord C. Water is also injected into the reservoir through an extended-reach well from the Statfjord North satellite.

Processed, stored and exported via Statfjord C, output from this field helps to extend the platform’s producing life since it uses the same processing equipment as Statfjord North and East.

From being a technology for the specially interested, subsea solutions have developed into a key component of offshore developments. Few places on Earth have so many subsea wells as the NCS. Statoil was the second largest operator of such solutions in 2005 with 245 installations, surpassed only by Petrobras with 464. [REMOVE]

Fotnote: Gjerde and Ryggvik 2009, p 321.

Published October 29, 2019   •   Updated January 28, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

The Statfjord B letter

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Preparations for building the Statfjord B platform were well under way in the autumn of 1976. But the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, as the regulator responsible for offshore safety, had its own views on the project. It expressed these in a letter sent to operator Mobil on 11 November 1976, which came to change all the plans.
— Norway's most expensive letter, it was called, the letter that instructed the Statoil/Mobil group to change the structure of Statfjord B.
© Norsk Oljemuseum

At that time, contract negotiations had been pursued with Norwegian Contractors on building a four-shaft Condeep gravity base structure (GBS). They were at the point where a letter of intent was ready.

The recently established Norwegian Petroleum Consultants (NPC) joint venture had also signed a contract on project management and engineering design for Statfjord B. Read more about NPC in the section on Statfjord B – the first plan.

While the contract for building the platform topside and mechanical outfitting of the GBS shafts had yet to be awarded, an option agreement had been secured with the Aker group.

So all the main contracts for the project appeared to have been put in place. The Storting (parliament) had also approved phase II of the development plan in June 1976, and most people assumed that it was simply a case of starting to build.

Until the NPD letter arrived

The Vogt commission

New safety regulations for the Norwegian offshore industry had been adopted on 9 July that year. A key issue for Statfjord B and the field licensees was the introduction of a more restrictive attitude towards simultaneous drilling and production combined with living quarters on a single integrated platform.

The new rules had been developed by a commission of inquiry appointed by the government as early as 22 May 1970 with a mandate to propose regulations for the safety of production and storage facilities on the seabed and of exploiting petroleum deposits.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk Oljerevy. (1976). no 2. Kontroll med sikkerheten fordelt på ni instanser. 

Work in the commission progressed slowly and its chair, Jens Evensen, asked to be relieved. He was replaced in November 1972 by director general Lars Oftedal Broch, who was replaced in his turn during May 1974 by Nils Vogt from the NPD.

The latter gave his name to the commission’s report, which was submitted to the Ministry of Industry on 12 July 1975. It was then circulated for consultation to affected companies and institutions.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hanisch, T., Nerheim, G., & Norsk petroleumsforening. (1992). Fra vantro til overmot? (Vol. 1). Oslo: Leseselskapet: 324.

Adopted by royal decree of 9 July 1976, the new safety regulations were based on the recommendations of the Vogt commission and on comments received in the consultation process. One provision of the decree was that the NPD would bear primary responsibility for supervising fixed offshore installations.

Safety issues on Statfjord were viewed by the directorate through the prism of the new regulations. It kept the industry ministry informed about its work, and wrote the following in a letter dated 7 July 1976:

“Given the work being done on safety conditions, it has been found necessary to adopt a more restrictive attitude to those concepts which are based on combined drilling and production, where the living quarters are also placed on the same platform. The main intentions of the Vogt commission’s recommendations run counter to both combined activity and the above-mentioned placement of living quarters … The NPD would emphasise that combined drilling and production will only be accepted following individual analyses and assessments. The same applies to living quarters which it is proposed to place on a drilling/production platform. No final choice of concept has been made for Statfjord B, so no specific safety analysis has been submitted. Comments from the NPD will accordingly have to wait until it the actual conditions have been presented.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk Oljerevy.

In other words, the ministry had been informed of the NPD’s work and of its scepticism about the plans for Statfjord B. As the letter indicated, the regulator could not adopt a final position until the Statfjord Unit Operating Committee (SUOC) had approved the concept chosen for the B platform in late August 1976. Only then could the NPD conduct its own safety analysis.

The results of the latter were presented to the Statfjord licensees in the above-mentioned letter of 11 November 1976, where the NPD questioned the safety of an integrated platform and ordered the construction of a separate quarters platform:

“The NPD is currently assessing the concept for Statfjord B on the basis of a general evaluation of the safety rules on the field in the light of the new regulations (royal decree of 9.7.76)

“Statfjord B is expected to involve:

  • particularly complex and extensive production facilities concentrated on a single platform
  • a large number of producing wells with high capacity, along with water and gas injection
  • permanent living quarters for 200 occupants, which will be used by 400 people during the construction phase and possibly the drilling phase
  • possible simultaneous drilling and production.

“The total risk is characterised by the contributions from each of the activities and processes which include the examples given above. The NPD’s assessment is that the total risk associated with these conditions lies at too high a level.

“In the NPD’s view, the best way to reduce the total risk would be to reduce the number of people who are present on the platform at any given time. The NPD has accordingly concluded that a separate quarters platform connected to Statfjord B should be built.”

This safety assessment was not confined to Statfjord B. Questions were also posed about the A platform, construction of which was far advanced at the time. It was due to be towed out to the field in six months.

“The considerations mentioned above also apply to Statfjord A, if to a somewhat lesser degree. The NPD would accordingly, on the basis of the provisions in the royal decree of 9.7.76, request that the company undertakes a new overall assessment of safety conditions [on this installation] in relation to the planned drilling and production programme, with particular attention paid to the accommodation issue.”

This letter was signed by Gunnar Hellesen, chair of the NPD board, and director general Fredrik Hagemann.

New concepts proposed

Statfjord B was intended to be a virtual copy of the A platform, but with four support shafts instead of three. The process facilities would be equally large and complex, with a production capacity of 300 000 barrels per day, and the 200-berth quarters module was to be installed on the platform.

It was the last feature in particular that the NPD wished to prevent. The regulator took the view that cutting the number of people on the platform at any given time would reduce the overall risk.

As the letter indicates, the desirable solution was seen to be the construction of two platforms – one for production and drilling, and the other for accommodation. The NPD also emphasised the need for overall safety thinking, and wanted a separate safety study carried out before detailed planning began.

Statoil and Mobil expressed surprise at the letter, and claimed they had not heard that such assessments were being made. Arve Johnsen, then Statoil’s chief executive, described his reaction to the letter in his book Utfordringen (The Challenge): “As chief executive of Statoil, I received many kinds of letters … I have forgotten most of them, but I will remember one to my dying day … It sent a shock wave through the licensees in the Statfjord group.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Johnsen, A. (1988). Utfordringen : Statoil-år. Oslo: Gyldendal: 202.

It might seem incomprehensible that the partners had failed to see this coming. They had long been aware that the NPD was looking at problems associated with simultaneous drilling and production, and the Vogt commission’s report had been through a consultation process. Comments in the latter as well as the report itself formed the basis for the new safety regulations.

Adopted in June, four months before the letter was despatched, the regulations specified that simultaneous drilling and production was prohibited without special permission. This should have sent certain signals that the plans for Statfjord B might be more difficult to implement than Mobil and Statoil thought.

As late as 12 October, section head Harald Ynnesdal had explained the NPD’s view on the issue in a speech he gave in Kristiansand:

“The new platform types are particularly complex and difficult to assess from a safety perspective with regard to these combined activities. As far as possible, fields should be planned with separate quarters platforms. The production platforms could then, with their combined activities, be assessed purely as industrial plants.

“In an assessment of simultaneous drilling and production in the Statfjord project, for example, the problem would have been much simpler if separate quarters platforms had been adopted. The cost of such platforms would have had little effect on profitability for this project, but would have meant a great deal for overall safety and the desire for an early start to production.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk Oljerevy. (1976). no 9. Statfjord – planer og virkelighet. On the basis of this letter, an extraordinary meeting of the SUOC was called on 26 November. It decided that all activities related to Statfjord B would be halted. The project would have to be re-evaluated, and extensive conceptual studies were to be carried out for every option from one to three platforms.

A meeting of the Statfjord field engineering committee (SFEC) – the technical project team – took place in January 1977. A 35-strong sub-committee was appointed to study and assess various conceptual solutions for Statfjord B, and came up with 39 variants for consideration.

When the SUOC met again on 18 March, Statoil expressed concern at the progress made. The project had a tight timetable, and order books at the Norwegian shipyards were empty. To speed up the process, the company proposed a separate drilling platform linked by a bridge to a combined production and quarters unit.

A drilling platform supported on a steel jacket, for instance, would be relatively cheap to build and could be ready for tow-out as early as 1979. Drilling of production wells could start as soon as the platform was in place, and continue while the associated production and quarters facility was under construction.

As soon as the latter had been installed, oil and gas could thereby begin.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk Oljerevy. (1977). no 5. Industrien må fortsatt vente på Statfjord B.  This meant in turn that the original schedule set in the field development plan could be met.

Mobil and Saga were strongly opposed to this plan, but did not have enough votes to block it. Their interests added up to only 25 per cent, while resolutions in the SUOC needed 70 per cent support. The Statoil proposal was thereby adopted – against the operator’s vote.

Esso also proposed its own solution at the meeting, comprising an integrated production, drilling and quarters (PDQ) platform but with processing capacity halved to 150 000 barrels per day. This facility would be simpler, since only one process train was required rather than the original two, and overall safety would be improved.

Mobil supported the Esso proposal. The two companies were uncompromising in their opposition to two platforms, and maintained that this would provide no safety benefit. A factor in their assessment was the poor seabed soil conditions on Statfjord, which meant that installing two platforms so close to each other and linked by a bridge carrying high-pressure pipelines would pose a safety risk.

The thought of the substantial capital investment required for two platforms also worried the operator. On the other hand, experience from other North Sea projects suggested that a capacity of 150 000 barrels per day would be sufficient. Such a solution would reduce construction costs by simplifying the platform, and production could also start earlier.

Threats

A further meeting of the SUOC was held on 28 April, when Mobil proposed an integrated platform with a single process train and an average capacity of 180 000 barrels per producing day. This size had been chosen in the hope of avoiding a separate quarters platform.

The change to the original concept was so large that a completely new field development plan might have to be produced. According to the proposals approved the Storting in the summer of 1976, three platforms with a combined capacity of 900 000 barrels per day were to be installed.

Reducing the size of the process facilities on each platform would either require more structures to maintain the planned output, or a slower pace of production.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk Oljerevy. (1977). no 5. Industrien må fortsatt vente på Statfjord B.  Fresh consideration by the Storting could delay the project further.

At the same time, Mobil vetoed a separate quarters platform.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Moe, J. (1980). Kostnadsanalysen norsk kontinentalsokkel : Rapport fra styringsgruppen oppnevnt ved kongelig resolusjon av 16. mars 1979 : Rapporten avgitt til Olje- og energidepartementet 29. april 1980 : 2 : Utbyggingsprosjektene på norsk sokkel (Vol. 2). Oslo: [Olje- og energidepartementet]. With strong support from Esso, the operator noted that it could not accept a solution which complied with the NPD’s principle that drilling and production should not take place simultaneously on the same installation.

Clear instructions had been sent from Mobil’s head office in New York that a compromise solution which would involve an acceptance of the NPD principle was out of the question. It feared that conceding this demand from the Norwegian regulator could lead to similar requirements on other continental shelves, which would have major consequences for both Mobil and its fellow oil companies.

A telex from New York emphasised that, the way things looked, concrete platforms on the scale of Statfjord A had outplayed their role on this field. Mobil was willing to renounce the operatorship for Statfjord B if a two-platform solution was adopted. This attitude took Statoil and the Norwegian government by surprise.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk Oljerevy. (1977). no 5. Industrien må fortsatt vente på Statfjord B. 

Statoil explored the possibility of another operator, but none of the other partners was willing to take on the role without a reallocation of licence interests. Mobil and Esso had staked their prestige on the issue, and they finally managed to convince Statoil of the technical problems posed by a two-platform solution. The argument that this could affect later developments in deeper water was central to the Norwegian company’s change of mind.

The discussion on one or more platforms and the studies of various concepts were paralleled with the presentation of new seismic data for the field. These cut its estimated oil reserves from 3.9 billion barrels – equivalent to 527 million tonnes – to 3.2 billion or 432 million tonnes. That reduced the need for two process trains on Statfjord B.

Clarification

On 5 August, the SUOC approved plans for a platform with the capacity to process 180 000 barrels per day. It was resolved on 29 November to apply to the NPD for permission to build such a structure. The application, accompanied by a separate safety study, was submitted on 1 December.

Plans now called for Statfjord B to be installed in 149 metres of water at the southern end of the field. Seabed conditions were poorer there than over the rest of Statfjord, and the base area of the GBS accordingly had to be increased.

While Statfjord A had 19 cells, the B version would have 24. Planned topside space would expand correspondingly, from 5 200 square metres to 7 800. The platform would still have four shafts even though only one process train was to be installed. With the fourth shaft reserved for risers, space was freed up in the others.

Additional safety barriers were introduced by the decision to make the decks and modules open, reducing the danger of an explosion and possible damage from such an incident. The various functions would also be positioned in such a way that no hazardous operations were close to or beneath the living quarters. And the quarters modules would be protected by an additional fire wall. These plans were approved by the NPD on 19 December.

The project had been delayed by a year and incurred substantial costs through a number of conceptual studies and reports. According to Henrik Ager-Hanssen, deputy chief executive of Statoil, the letter from the NPD was the most expensive in Norwegian history and cost the project NOK 25 million per word.

Viewed from a different perspective, former Statoil staffer Bjørn Vidar Lerøen has noted that oil prices reached record levels over the next few years. That meant the letter became one of Norway’s most profitable.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Lerøen, B., Gooderham, R., & Statoil. (2002). Drops of black gold : Statoil 1972-2002. Stavanger: Statoil: 149.

Published May 23, 2018   •   Updated November 22, 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

Gas pipeline agreements

person By Håkon Lavik, former Statoil employee
The sale of gas from Statfjord made it necessary to connect the platforms with flowlines to gather gas for export via the Statpipe system. Oil flowlines also linked the platforms, but these had been installed as part of the field development.
— Statfjord field with associated gas pipelines. Source: Storting Report 39 1984–85
© Norsk Oljemuseum

A separate project, the Statfjord intrafield pipeline system (Sips), was established to engineer and install the gas lines. Once the work had been completed, Sips was taken over, owned and operated by the Statfjord Unit. In formal terms, Sips
forms part of the Statfjord Facilities – in other words, all the platforms, flowlines, wells and so forth which have been developed to operate the field.

Since the British licensees in Statfjord were not allowed to sell their gas to continental Europe, a separate UK Gas Offtake pipeline was laid as part of Sips from Statfjord B to the UK side of the boundary. There it tied into the Northern Leg Gas Pipeline (NLGP), a gas gathering line for fields north of Brent. The Statfjord Unit owns that part of the UK Gas Offtake line which lies within its boundaries, while the British licensees own the section to the west, including the NLGP tie-in. The UK government demanded the inclusion of a non-return valve in this line, so that British gas could not be conducted to Statfjord B.

This line was regulated by the Agreement for Installation and Tie-in of the UK Pipeline to the Statfjord B Platform and to the Northern Leg Gas Pipeline , which entered into on 1 February 1983. The UK Statfjord Gas Offtake Operating Services between Mobil Exploration Norway Inc and Conoco (UK) Ltd service agreement was also signed on 27 September 1985. A gas pipeline was laid from Gullfaks A to Statfjord C under a separate Agreement for Tie-in and Operation of the Gullfaks Pipeline to the Statfjord C Platform between the two sets of licensees,   dated 27 September 1984.

Gas from Gullfaks was carried via Sips before entering Statpipe until the end of the 1990s, when Gullfaks acquired a new tie-in to Statpipe south of Statfjord. Gas transit via Statfjord accordingly terminated, but the pipeline from Gullfaks is still intact and usable and the tie-in agreement remains operative.

Statpipe tie-in

Gassrøravtaler,
Statpipe map from Gullfaks brochure 1984. Illustration: Equinor

Although the Statpipe system starts from the field, it does not form part of the Statfjord Unit. A separate pipeline and transport company was established after the gas from Statfjord, Gullfaks and Heimdal had been sold in 1982.

The purpose of this joint venture was to install pipelines and build the Kårstø processing plant north of Stavanger in order to export gas from the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) via Ekofisk to Emden in Germany. Where Statfjord was concerned, this meant that a contract was signed on 12 July 1984 between the Statfjord Unit and Statpipe concerning the tie-in of the pipeline to Statfjord and its subsequent operation.

 Statfjord B serves as the starting point for Statpipe, and the valve system on the seabed is operated from that platform. But it was Statfjord C, via Sips, which was responsible for maintaining pump pressure in the pipeline and ensuring that the gas flowed to Kårstø.
Statpipe later became part of the Gassled joint venture, and the section from Statfjord to Kårstø now lies in Gassled’s tariff zone 1. In connection with the Statfjord late life (SFLL) project, the connection between Sips and Gassled was severed in 2007. Statfjord B now provides the connection with Gassled.

Statpipe-Statfjord transportation agreement

Dated 30 September 1985, this contract secured transport rights in Statpipe for the Norwegian share licensees in Statfjord. The agreement still exists in principle, but was converted on 1 January 2003 to individual contracts for each licensee following the adoption of the EU’s gas directive. Each company accordingly has its own transport agreement. That was also the original position, but based on a single contract.
Similarly, each of the licensees in the Norwegian share of Statfjord had separate sales agreements for its proportion of the gas with the buyer consortium in continental Europe. These contracts were terminated in 2007, since the volume sold under them was deemed to have been delivered. Statfjord gas, including output from the SFLL project, is sold today to the UK.

Tampen Link

Gassrøravtaler,
Tampen Link. Illustration: Equinor

As part of SFLL, the decision was taken to lay a new pipeline from Statfjord to tie into the Far North Liquids and Associated Gas System (Flags) in the UK North Sea. The latter runs from Brent to St Fergus in Scotland.
Tampen Link is a separate company operated by Gassled. Dated 22 February 2005, the contract related to Statfjord has a long name: Agreement Between the Tampen Link Joint Venture and the Statfjord Group for the Installation and Tie-in of the Tampen Link Transportation Facilities to the Statfjord Facilities and the Operation of the Tampen Link Statfjord Facilities and the Operation of the Tampen Link Statfjord Facilities and the Transit Services at the Statfjord Facilities.
This agreement makes it possible to transport gas from Statfjord directly to Flags and the UK, and from other fields in transit via Statfjord to the same destination.

Crossing agreements

Since Statfjord is a hub for oil and gas exports from the northern North Sea, a number of pipelines large and small have been laid. Where these cross over each other, a crossing agreement has to be established. You cannot simply lay your pipeline over one belonging to somebody else and possibly cause damage. This must be regulated.

The following agreements have been established so far:

  • Crossing of the Statfjord B Pipeline and the Statfjord Control Umbilical by the Penguin Pipelines and Cable , dated 22 March 2002. (Penguin is a small UK field tied back to Brent.)
  • Pipeline Crossing and Laying Agreement Between Statfjord Unit and Sygna Unit , dated 14 April 2000.
  • Pipeline Crossing Agreement Between Statfjord East and Statfjord North Flank , dated 1 April 1999. (the north flank is the northernmost part of Statfjord, developed with subsea wells).
  • Pipeline Crossing Agreement Between Tampen Link and Statfjord Unit , dated 20 November 2006.

Published October 30, 2019   •   Updated February 18, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

Changing the operator

person By Håkon Lavik, former Statoil employee
Transferring the Statfjord operatorship from Mobil to Statoil ranks as one of the biggest controversies in Norwegian oil policy. The 1973 licence allowed a change of operator to be requested 10 years after a discovery was declared commercial, and Statoil asked to exercise this right in 1984. Mobil was opposed, and felt it would suffer a huge loss of prestige from such a transfer.
— Statoil takes over operator responsibility from Mobil. Martin Bekkeheien and Mike Smith pictured together with a model of Statfjord A. Photo: Leif Berge/Equinor
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The US major at least wanted a visible compensation for the loss of the operatorship. It asked first to become operator for block 30/6, which proved to contain the Oseberg field.

When that failed, Mobil “declared war” on Statoil and began to fight to retain the operator role. It argued that the state oil company had gone behind its back by securing the exploration operatorship for 30/6.

Although Mobil secured an interest in the block, it felt that this was not enough. Moreover, the operatorship for 30/6 was transferred from Statoil to Norsk Hydro in 1982 – Norway’s first political decision on such a change.

Mobil next sought to secure the operatorship for block 34/7, where Snorre, Vigdis, Tordis and Borg were to be discovered, but again without success. Norway’s Saga Petroleum became the operator – and Mobil was not even offered a holding in the block.

The Statfjord operatorship became a hot political issue during the early 1980s. That was because it involved Statoil and the size of that company, and because “clipping Statoil’s wings” had been a manifesto commitment for the Conservative Party in the 1981 general election. That promise in turn led eventually to the creation of the state’s direct financial interest (SDFI) in 1984, in effect from 1985.

Before that, however, the operator issue had to all intents and purposes been settled in 1983, with a formal decision in 1984. The question was considered by the standing committee on industry of the Storting (parliament) in 1983 in connection with the annual Statoil report to the committee.

Both Mobil and Statoil were asked to submit their arguments. The former decided to devote its time to rubbishing the state oil company. That annoyed so many members of the committee that its chair, Reidar Due, noted afterwards that a majority already existed for the fastest possible change of operatorship.

Operatørskiftet,
Kåre Kristiansen. Photo: Stortingsarkivet/Scanpix

Kåre Kristiansen from the Christian Democratic Party, who became petroleum and energy minister in 1983, was opposed to a transfer. So were prime minister Kåre Willoch and finance minister Rolf Presthus, both Conservatives.

However, a majority recommendation from the industry committee in favour of a transfer was backed by members of the Centre and Christian Democratic parties. Since these were both part of the governing centre-right coalition, this act was political dynamite.

The outcome was that Willoch himself contacted the committee and had the recommendation revised before the document was submitted to the Storting’s presidium. This meant in practice that Due and the other members of the coalition party – including Arnljot Norwich and Svein Alsaker – agreed to postpone the issue for a year. Kristiansen failed to grasp that.

When the issue came up again in the autumn of 1984, the fronts had consolidated. Mobil was battling desperately to retain the operatorship, while Statoil fought just as hard to secure it.

In an attempt to resolve the question without bringing down the coalition, local government minister Arne Rettedal asked the two companies to agree on a collaboration agreement.

Such a deal was actually drawn up, but rejected the following day by Mobil before it could be submitted to Rettedal and Kristiansen. This was because the US company had received clear signals from Kristiansen that a decision on the operatorship would be postponed, perhaps for a decade.

Before Mobil rejected the agreement, it asked Kristiansen whether he stood by his word. He did. But things fell apart when the deal was turned down. The government could no longer prevaricate, and the message from the industry committee was once again clear. Both the Centre and Christian Democratic Parties would support Labour and ensure a majority for a change.

If the issue was not resolved that autumn, the government would be defeated and might fall apart or have to resign. Faced with that prospect, the coalition resolved unanimously on the following day that the operatorship would be transferred.

The Storting followed up with a decision in December 1984, and the transfer was implemented painlessly during 1986. Statoil became operator on 1 January 1987. The transfer decision marked the end of the last major Norwegian political controversy over Statfjord.

Published October 30, 2019   •   Updated February 14, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close