Photo: Wisting development in the Barents Sea; Source: Equinor

Equinor reveals document shedding more light on Barents Sea project development

Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor has decided to issue a complementary assessment for the development and operation of a field located in the Barents Sea off Norway ahead of the plan for development and operation (PDO), which is slated for the end of 2022.

Equinor disclosed a complementary assessment for the Wisting development for public consultation on Monday, adding that this document provides more details on how the field can be developed and operated in “a safe and secure manner.” The deadline for statements on the complementary assessment is within two weeks from publication.

Trond Bokn, Equinor’s senior vice president for project management control, remarked: “The complementary assessment elaborates some key subjects from the impact assessment, strengthening the decision-making basis for a safe and secure field development.”

Back in February 2022, the impact assessment for the Wisting project was submitted for public consultation with a deadline for statements within 12 weeks. According to Equinor, less than 50 statements were received from various parties and on a request for additional information, the Norwegian player decided to conduct a complementary assessment on 30 June 2022.

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While socioeconomic profitability and climate risks are not illuminated in the complementary assessment, this will be included in the profitability and uncertainty analysis in the development part. Equinor pointed out that the plan for development and operation, part 1, will entail a qualitative stress test towards financial climate risks as the development’s break-even is compared with various scenarios for oil and gas price bands aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Norwegian giant confirmed that it will give feedback on each individual statement on the impact assessment and the complementary assessment no later than at the submission of the PDO to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, which will include the full decision-making basis for Wisting, including public consultation statements and feedback.

Afterwards, the government will present its recommendation to the Norwegian Parliament (Storting), including an evaluation as to whether the obligation to conduct an impact assessment has been met, and whether field development is recommended.

“The impact assessment, public consultation processes, and the complementary assessment have so far not brought to light any information which changes our view that developing Wisting is technically and environmentally appropriate. The work on technical studies and detailing of plans for the development of the project will continue towards the planned investment decision at the end of 2022,” added Bokn.

Wisting location; Source: Equinor
Location of the Wisting field; Source: Equinor

Moreover, the complementary assessment provides additional details on the potential impacts of the development for four subjects: year-round activities, environmental risks, oil spill contingency, and the use of the best available techniques for field development and operations.

Equinor intends to adapt the installation and safety of the operations to low-temperature conditions, so-called winterization, to enable this development project to withstand ice conditions that statistically may occur once every 10,000 years. In lieu of this, ice monitoring systems will be established, allowing operations to be adjusted if the ice gets closer than 50 kilometres from the installation.

The Wisting development, which entails drilling of multiple wells, implements several measures initially aimed to prevent, but also minimize the consequences of undesired incidents, underlined Equinor, adding that it plans to schedule drilling activities for a time of the year that minimizes environmental risk and will therefore not drill in oil-bearing layers during the most vulnerable month for seabirds.

Equinor outlined that the management plan for the Barents Sea – adopted in 2020 – forms the framework for the Wisting field development and as fields producing for up to 30 years call for good long-term climate solutions, it is proposed that this field will be powered from shore.

In line with this, the concept chosen for the Wisting development consists of a circular FPSO, with power from shore as an integrated part of the technical solution. Sevan’s cylindrical FPSO has been selected for this development while the oil will be processed and stored on the FPSO before it is shipped to the market.

Equinor reveals document shedding more light on development of Barents Sea project
Wisting FPSO illustration; Credit: Asle Haugland/Equinor

Equinor believes that the Wisting discovery contains nearly 500 million barrels of oil equivalent and expects investments in this project to be in the range of NOK 60 billion – 75 billion or about $6.7 billion – $8.4 billion. The production is scheduled to start in 2028.

The Norwegian giant has already awarded several contracts for the Wisting development, including a Letter of Intent, which was handed to Aker Solutions in October 2021 for a front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract for the Wisting FPSO. This also entails an option for EPCI of the topside for the FPSO.

Additionally, FEED studies were awarded to Technip FMC, ABB, Leirvik, Aibel, OneSubsea Processing, IKM Ocean Design, Subsea 7, NOV, Baker Hughes Energy, NKT, and Siemens for work that will mainly be performed in Norway.

Thanks to an agreement with Lundin from December 2021, Equinor will continue its Wisting operatorship into the operations phase. Wisting licence partners include Equinor (35 per cent), Aker BP (35 per cent), Petoro (20 per cent), and INPEX Idemitsu Norge (10 per cent).