The Maria field has started productionProduction has started on the Wintershall field in the Norwegian Sea, almost a year earlier than originally planned
“I have told my wife that I do not need a Christmas present this year”.
Hugo Dijkgraaf, Managing Director of Wintershall Norway, has already had the best gift he could have hoped for, with the Maria field now coming onstream.
This was originally planned to happen in the fourth quarter of 2018. Costs have also been reduced by 20 per cent, to around NOK 12 million.
The project means that the company will have a daily production of 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent on the Norwegian shelf.
Maria is the first field in Norway on which Wintershall has led the entire process from discovery to production. The company is already the operator of the Brage and Vega fields, but acquired these operatorships through acquisitions from Statoil.
“Maria is very special for Wintershall Norway. The company has developed many fields globally, but this is the one in Norway. It is almost like watching a child grow up – now it is ready to stand on its own two feet and start producing”, Dijkgraaf told Sysla.
For the Dutchman, this milestone is particularly significant. Seven years ago, he was sent to Norway to run the project.
“The Maria story started with a good oil discovery in 2010. Later, we drilled more wells in the area and were able to establish that the discovery was bigger than we had first thought”.
Now the total resources are estimated to be around 180 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents. That makes it a medium-sized discovery; by comparison, Johan Castberg In the Barents Sea has 550 million barrels. Maria holds mainly oil, but there is also some gas.
In the impact assessment, total revenues were estimated to be 84.8 billion 2015 krone up to 2040. When the estimates were made, the oil price was significantly lower than it is now.
When the discovery was made, the work began on deciding how the field should be developed. Several options were considered. One alternative was to build a floating production vessel, or FPSO. However, these are expensive and the conclusion was that this was not the best alternative.
Another option was to develop the field with subsea installations and tie them back to a field which is already in production. There are several platforms in the vicinity, but in the end none of them had the capacity to offer all the services Maria needed – receiving oil and gas, supplying lifting gas for production, and supplying water for water injection, needed to increase the pressure in the reservoir and achieve a better production rate.
“So we went back to the drawing board. I remember that period well. We sat round the table and asked ourselves: What are our options”?
Completely new concept
This was around the time the oil price started to fall. That put additional pressure on profitability, and made developing the field with an expensive production vessel even less viable.
And then someone had the idea: What about tying the field back to multiple platforms? The Heidrun platform could provide water, Åsgard B could provide gas, and Kristin could receive and process the oil and gas.
“The solution was feasible, but complicated. We could not find anything to show that anyone else had done the same thing before”, said Dijkgraaf.
In the end, the conclusion was that it was possible, and by the end of 2014, the concept was officially selected. In May 2015, the Plan for Development and Operation (PDO) was submitted to the Ministry, and it was approved in September of the same year. Two years and three months later, production is under way.
“For a project of these dimensions, that is an extremely short time frame, and something of which we are proud. For our field partners and Norway, it is important for developments to be achieved according to the planned schedule and costs”.
The Maria project was developed in parallel with a falling oil price and worsening crisis in the oil industry. It has helped to make the project cheaper, because prices have been reduced. Supplier capacity has also improved, which has resulted in shorter waiting times. But there have been several sides to the crisis.
“At one point, one of our suppliers was close to declaring bankruptcy. That would have been a nightmare for the project”, said Dijkgraaf.
90 per cent of suppliers on the Maria project are registered in Norway. The project is estimated to provide a total of 34,000 man years, over the development and production phases.
“A manned platform would naturally provide more work, but this is still a high figure. It is wonderful that the project is creating so many jobs”, said Dijkgraaf.
But even though Maria is moving from project to production, there is little time to rest. In the New Year, the development plans for Nova (previously Skarfjell) must be submitted – a project which has many features in common with Maria.
“We will be able to transfer a great deal of knowledge between the two, and use many of the same people. These are exciting times”, said Dijkgraaf.