Norway seeks land power for offshore fields
OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's centre-left government pushed ahead on Friday with controversial plans to power some offshore oil and gas platforms by electricity produced on land, in an effort to cut carbon emissions by the oil industry.
The Energy and Petroleum Ministry linked its approval for BP's Skarv field development with pledges by field partners to help develop technology that brings electrical power to offshore platforms or floating production vessels.
"The license partners will take part in a program to develop this technology," ministry spokeswoman Sissel Edvardsen said, adding that the project has not yet been detailed and that the ministry did not expect Skarv to be powered from shore.
Norway's oil lobby has criticized such plans, saying that Norwegian emission rules were already among the strictest in the world and that long power cables would boost production costs, especially with new discoveries increasingly found in hard-to-reach places, such as deep-water or the Arctic.
Offshore platforms or floating production vessels are now mainly powered by burning some of the fuel they produce.
BP Norway said it was pleased that the government passed the 31 billion Norwegian crowns ($5.90 billion) Skarv development plan to parliament and that it was looking forward to helping develop technology to power production vessels from land.
The Skarv development envisages a floating production vessel, a cheaper and more flexible alternative to a traditional concrete platform, that would tap the field's 16.4 million cubic meters of oil and 34.5 billion cubic meters of gas.
Critics say that Norway does not produce enough electricity to power large parts of its offshore sector, meaning that new power plants would have to be built or it would have to raise imports of electricity generated by coal or nuclear power.
And since Norway has already exploited its vast hydropower potential, the new plants would probably have to be gas fired, which would also produce unwanted emissions until technology is developed to store the carbon dioxide underground.
Another alternative could be floating windmill farms near fields, an idea already being developed by StatoilHydro, the biggest operator on the Norwegian shelf.
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