|Norway gas production hits record rate in February|
| [14.03.2012, 08:56pm, Wed. GMT]|
|Norway produced gas at the fastest average monthly rate on record in February as bitter cold drove up demand across northwest Europe. The country produced 10.72bn m³ last month, or 369.7mn m³/d, topping the nearly 360mn m³/d produced in January, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD). Last winter, Norwegian production peaked at 350.5mn m³/d in December 2010. The rise in output came as a spell of exceptionally cold weather drove up demand across the region — a situation compounded by the Russia's failure to meet European importers' supply nominations.Norwegian deliveries into the NCG area — one of the worst affected by the shortfall in Russian exports — were nearly 7mn m³/d higher on the month at 74.3mn m³/d, soaking up most of the rise in overall production.|
The sharp rise in production in the first two months of this year has gone some way to making up for the exceptional weakness of output in the fourth quarter of last year.
Norway produced only 28.4bn m³ in the final quarter of 2011, down from 30.3bn m³ in October-December 2010. But its output was about 50.3bn m³ in October 2011-February 2012, marginally above the 50.2bn m³ produced during the same period a year earlier and well above the 48bn m³ produced over the same period in 2009-10 and 2008-09.
And flow data suggest that Norwegian output has remained strong this month, averaging around 340mn m³/d. If sustained for the entire month, that would translate into another 10.5bn m³ of output, making for 32.4bn m³ of gas produced in the first quarter, and just over 60.8bn m³ produced through the entire winter — up from 60.5bn m³ last year.
In a forecast published at the beginning of the year, the NPD said Norway would produce just under 29bn m³ this quarter, which would have made 57.3bn m³ for the entire winter.
Stronger output from the Gjoa field was likely responsible for part of the boost to output in February. The field only returned to its full production potential on 11 January, after 10 months of work. The field produced an average of 9.5mn m³/d in January, rising from just 2.5mn m³/d in December. This ramp-up suggests that the field could have produced just over 16mn m³/d in February, potentially accounting for more than half of the month's increase in total output.
But there was relatively limited scope for production to turn higher at the two massive swing fields of Troll and Ormen Lange. Troll output averaged 115mn m³/d in January, just below its December 2007 high of 118.4mn m³/d, and Ormen Lange produced just under 65mn m³/d, down from its peak of nearly 69mn m³/d in December 2009.
Even so, strong Troll output at the start of this year may have put cumulative production from the field back on track to at least match historic levels by the end of February. Troll's cumulative production stood nearly 625mn m³ below the five-year average at the end of December, at 8.15bn m³. January's stronger output pared that shortfall to about 428mn m³, and if February's output at least maintained the previous month's pace, the shortfall could have been cut to just 136mn m³ by the end of last month.
State-controlled Statoil has been given permission to produce 30bn m³ from Troll in the 2011-12 gas year, returning the cap to its previous level after it was cut to 24bn m³ in 2010-11.