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Two oil platforms stand in the North Sea off the coast of Norway on Dec. 3, 2019.

TOM LITTLE/AFP/Getty Images

Norway’s oil industry regulator said on Thursday it had cut its 2021-2023 crude production forecasts, although output was still on track to grow as new fields are brought on stream.

Preliminary data showed crude output rose 20 per cent in 2020 from 2019 to 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) even as production was curbed by a strike among workers as well as government restrictions to help lift global prices.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) expects oil production to grow by 3.6 per cent this year to 1.76 million barrels per day (bpd), down from a previous estimate of 1.87 million bpd.

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The forecast for 2024 was meanwhile raised by 2.6 per cent to an expected 16-year high of 2.1 million bpd.

Norway, which began to extract oil and gas from its offshore continental shelf 50 years ago, believes it has still only pumped about half of its available resources.

“Our estimates indicate that there is enough oil and gas on the shelf for the petroleum industry to create value for a long time to come,” NPD chief Ingrid Soelvberg said in a statement. 

State-controlled Equinor is expected to bring on stream the second phase of its Johan Sverdrup oilfield in late 2022 and the Arctic Johan Castberg field the following year, the company has said.

The Castberg startup is delayed compared to original plans however, as are several other fields, including Martin Linge, which is years behind schedule.

NATURAL GAS

Natural gas output is also expected to grow at a slower pace than had previously been forecast, with estimates lowered by between 3 per cent and 8 per cent per year, the NPD said.

Gas output for 2021, while still slightly higher than in 2020, will be almost 8 per cent lower than had been predicted a year ago, hit among other things by a fire at Equinor’s Hammerfest LNG plant.

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Only 31 exploration wells were drilled last year, the lowest number since 2007, and far less than the 50 originally planned as the pandemic curbed the labour-intensive offshore work required to search for new reserves. In 2021 it is expected to rebound to 40 wells.

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