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Equinor starts production from Norway's giant Sverdrup oil field

At peak, the mega-project is expected to account for around one-third of all oil production in the country


EQUINOR ASA has started its Johan Sverdrup oil field, a rare mega-project in the North Sea that's been a boon for Norway's offshore industry and now promises to deliver a huge production boost for the country.

Discovered in 2010 in an area that had been disregarded by most explorers, the site started production on Saturday and is set to reach 440,000 barrels a day by next summer. That represents a 33 per cent addition to Norway's production in the first half of this year, a spike in output not seen since the 1980s.

It's hard to overstate the importance of Sverdrup for its owners, the Norwegian state and the country's entire oil industry.

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Confidence about the field's start-up was key for state-controlled Equinor's decision to kick off a long-awaited US$5 billion buyback programme in September, and Sverdrup will be a driving force in the company's production growth in the next years. It also helped to transform Lundin Petroleum AB - which made the initial discovery - and Aker BP ASA into two of the most important companies in Norway's oil industry.

"Sverdrup coming on stream is a momentous occasion for Equinor, our partners and suppliers," the state-controlled company's chief executive officer Eldar Saetre said in a statement on Saturday. "At peak, this field will account for around one-third of all oil production in Norway and deliver very valuable barrels with record low emissions."

With as much as 3.2 billion barrels in reserves, it is Norway's biggest discovery since the 1970s. In an illustration of how unusually large the field is, Aker BP considered going to court over a few decimals in ownership.

Equinor expects Sverdrup to contribute about US$100 billion to Norway's state coffers over 50 years. The field's timing was also perfect for the Nordic country: green-lighted in 2015, just after a historic collapse in the crude market, it offered a lifeline to the embattled oil-service industry, even if the market slump forced suppliers to cut prices.

"It rescued us" from a "mega-crisis", former petroleum and energy minister Terje Soviknes said last year. BLOOMBERG