The 122 billion cubic meters (Bcm) of natural gas that Norway produced in 2022 is projected to continue at the same level for the “next four to five years,” a relief for Europe as it seeks to replace Russian gas, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).

“The disappearance of Russian gas on the European market led to greater demand for Norwegian gas, which caused Norway to become the largest supplier in Europe by the end of last year,” said NPD’s interim director general, Torgeir Stordal.

In a forecast released this week, Norway’s oil and gas production is expected to reach 4.12 boe/d in 2023, up from 3.99 boe/d in 2022. Oil production is expected to rise by 6.9% this year, while gas output is forecast to continue unchanged in 2023.

NPD “summarized last year very precisely,” Rystad Energy analyst Mathias Schioldborg told NGI. It was “a year of increased gas production, slightly reduced liquids production and a wave of companies sanctioning projects within the temporary tax regime that closed at year-end 2022.”

Norway exports gas via pipeline to facilities in Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. A new pipeline opened last year to allow Norway to deliver gas to Poland via Denmark too. Norway also exports LNG via its Arctic Hammerfest plant.

Norway’s year/year gas production was 9 Bcm higher in 2022 and now accounts for more than half of production from the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

To continue 2022 production levels over the next four to five years, Schioldborg said there would be continued “high gas production from large fields like Troll, Oseberg, Snøhvit, Ormen Lange and Aasta Hansteen.”

He added that the Njord field recently came back online and the Dvalin field is on track for start-up this year. Several projects also were sanctioned under Norway’s temporary tax relief for the industry and are on track to start production from 2024 that “will also help Norway maintain high gas production in the coming years.”

After the four or five year period towards 2030, Rystad forecasts projects that were sanctioned under the temporary tax regime to help maintain Norway’s gas production. Royal Dutch Shell plc’s Ormen Lange phase 3 in late 2025; Aker BP’s Yggdrasil hub in 2027; Equinor ASA’s Irpa in 2026, and ConocoPhillips’ Tommeliten Alpha in 2024 are all expected to support volumes in the coming years.

“Major producing fields like Troll, Oseberg and Aasta Hansteen will maintain significant production, but gently initiate their decline phases, and the net effect on Norway’s overall gas production will depend on the rate at which these key fields decline,” Schioldborg said.

Stordal said it was important that companies have shown a willingness to drill exploration wells that carry greater risk when it comes to finding oil or gas. 

The Lupa gas discovery in the Barents Sea in December was important since the NPD expects the Barents Sea to hold “significant undiscovered gas resources,” but a lack of infrastructure to export gas has made it less attractive to explore.

“To make the Barents Sea more attractive to investors, there is a need for more export infrastructure, such as pipelines that can connect new developments to existing installations in the Norwegian Sea and more LNG capacity such as the Melkøya processing plant,” Schioldberg added.

Efficient export infrastructure would not only make it easier to develop new fields in the Barent Sea area, according to Rystad, but also lower the overall greenfield costs of new developments.

Schioldborg pointed out that the NPD has indicated it expects a small decline in overall hydrocarbon production from 2026, but has not differentiated between oil and gas.

“The rate at which new discoveries are developed during the upcoming years will also have an important impact on the overall long-term trend of Norway’s gas production,” he said. “Rystad Energy expects gas production to remain stable towards 2030, but to steadily decline thereafter.”