FPSO Johan Castberg; Source: Equinor

WATCH: Massive newbuild FPSO embarking on sea trials before starting its Barents Sea gig

Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor has disclosed the departure of its giant new floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel from Aker Solutions’ Stord yard. Once the unit has undergone sea trials, it will move to an oil project in the Barents Sea to begin its 30-year assignment off the coast of Norway. 

FPSO Johan Castberg; Source: Equinor

In 2017, the plan for development and operation (PDO) was submitted for the Johan Castberg project, with a cost estimate of NOK 57 billion (close to $5.3 billion). This is envisioned as a subsea field with 30 wells distributed on ten templates and two satellites tied back to the FPSO Johan Castberg. The unit’s hull, including living quarters, was transported from Singapore to Stord for installation and commissioning in 2022.

Previously, the project’s start-up was targeted for the fourth quarter of 2022 but got bumped to Q4 2024 due to delays and cost overruns. The Johan Castberg partnership, encompassing Equinor, Vår Energi, and Petoro, updated the project’s cost estimate to NOK 80 billion (almost $7.4 billion) in September 2023.

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After two years, the last mooring line that tied the FPSO to the quay at Aker Solutions in Stord was cut on May 30. Designed for a daily production of close to 190,000 barrels, the over 300-meter long, 120-meter tall FPSO with a bright orange hull, left for sea trials in Klosterfjorden, before it makes its way to the Barents Sea at the end of summer.

“Now it will be several decades before the ship docks again. After sea trials in Klosterfjorden, it will head home to the Barents Sea towards the end of summer, where Johan Castberg will provide value creation, energy security, jobs, and ripple effects for 30 years to come,” highlighted Equinor.

With the proven volumes estimated at between 450 and 650 million barrels of oil, the Johan Castberg field is located around 100 km north of the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea, 150 km from Goliat, and almost 240 km from Melkøya in Hammerfest. The water depth at the site is 360-390 meters.

While confirming that the FPSO Johan Castberg was on the move, Torger Rød, COO of Vår Energi, emphasized: “Thanks a lot, to Equinor and Aker Solutions for all the hard work – developing the giant of the north. We are looking forward to the continuation.

“The Barents region features significant further value and upside potential. The Johan Castberg project stands out as a great example and proof of our commitment to chase opportunities and secure further growth, activity, and long-term value creation in the north.”

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According to Equinor, the Johan Castberg field development makes room for an important infrastructure in a new oil province in the Barents Sea, with two more discoveries, made in 2022, being considered for tie-back to Johan Castberg.

Plans are also in the pipeline for further exploration in the vicinity during the years ahead. The operation of Johan Castberg will be serviced by a supply and helicopter base in Hammerfest and an operations organization in Harstad. 

The news about the FPSO’s sea trials comes shortly after Equinor announced plans to invest more than NOK 12 billion (close to $1.13 billion) into boosting gas infrastructure in the Troll West area through the second stage of the Troll Phase 3 (TP3 II) project to ramp up production from the reservoir and maintain the high gas export levels from the Troll and Kollsnes value chain leading up to 2030.