Photo: Equinor

Equinor unveils plan to invest over $1.4 bln in deepwater gas development

Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor has submitted a plan for the development and operation (PDO) of a deepwater gas project in the Norwegian Sea to the country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE). The project has a planned investment of over $1.4 billion.

While disclosing that the PDO for the Irpa gas discovery, formerly known as Asterix, has been submitted to the Norwegian Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Equinor explained that this will enable the delivery of more gas to Europe and extend the life of the Aasta Hansteen field by ensuring activity and stable gas deliveries until 2039.

Geir Tungesvik, Equinor’s executive vice president for Projects, Drilling and Procurement, commented: “This is a good day—the development of Irpa will contribute to predictable and long-term deliveries of gas to customers in the EU and the UK.”

Geir Tungesvik (left) presented the PDO for the Irpa discovery to Terje Aasland, on behalf of Equinor and partners in the Irpa field; Credit: Colin Dobinson/Equinor

This development project will have a total cost of NOK 14.8 billion (over $1.4 billion), and the field is scheduled to come on stream in the fourth quarter of 2026. Equinor outlined that the gas from this project will be phased into existing infrastructure over Aasta Hansteen and transported to the Nyhamna gas processing plant via Polarled. From there, it will be transported via the Langeled pipeline system to customers in the UK and continental Europe.

Grete Birgitte Haaland, senior vice president for Exploration and Production North, remarked: “The development shows that near-field exploration and utilisation of existing infrastructure provides good resource utilisation on the Norwegian continental shelf. Irpa will maintain existing jobs at Aasta Hansteen, at the supply base in Sandnessjøen, at the helicopter base in Brønnøysund and at the operations centre in Harstad.”

Furthermore, the Norwegian giant highlighted that there will be joint production from Irpa and Aasta Hansteen through 2031 and then Irpa will continue to produce until 2039. According to the firm, this project has “good social profitability,” since Aasta Hansteen operations created jobs equivalent to over 300 person-years, directly and indirectly in 2020 and 2021.

Hogne Pedersen, project director for Irpa, stated: “During the project period, there will also be local and regional deliveries, although the Irpa project is largely dependent on international specialist suppliers who can operate in water depths of 1,350 metres.”

Based on the PDO, this discovery will be developed with three wells and an 80-kilometre pipeline to the Aasta Hansteen platform. Equinor underscored that “as the only planned deepwater development in Norway,” the technical solution will contribute to new competence development in the industry.

Irpa pipe-in-pipe solution (illustration);  Credit: Kjell Morten Aas/Equinor
Irpa pipe-in-pipe solution (illustration); Credit: Kjell Morten Aas/Equinor

“It has been challenging to develop Irpa. Deep water and low temperatures on the seabed have necessitated the qualification of innovative new technology for pipelines, but good support in the partnership and increased demand for gas have made an investment decision possible,” added Pedersen.

Located in the Vøring Basin in the Norwegian Sea, about 80 kilometres west of the Aasta Hansteen platform and 340 kilometres west of Bodø, the Irpa discovery was proven in 2009. The project’s expected recoverable gas resources are estimated at approximately 20 billion standard cubic metres, equivalent to 124 million boe or the consumption of nearly 2.4 million British households over a period of seven years.

Terje Aasland, the Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, said: “Through developments such as Irpa, jobs are created in Norway, values ​​for the community and it gives energy to our allies in Europe. That is why it is so gratifying to receive a plan for the development and operation of the Irpa gas field.”

Equinor is the operator of the Irpa gas field with a 51 per cent interest while its partners include Wintershall Dea (19 per cent), Petoro (20 per cent), and Shell (10 per cent).