* Peak production seen at 55,000 barrels per day
* To start producing in 2017
* Could recover more than 250 mln barrels of oil
By Balazs Koranyi
OSLO, Dec 21 Norway's Statoil has
decided to go ahead with a $7 billion project to develop the
North Sea Mariner oil field discovered 31 years ago, it said on
Friday, giving a boost to the UK offshore industry after years
Statoil said it has now made the investment decision on
Mariner, situated 150 kilometres east of the Shetland Islands,
and also aims to make a decision on the Bressay heavy oil field
in the same area next year.
Mariner, Britain's biggest new offshore oil field project in
over a decade, is slated to start production by 2017 and could
recover over 250 million barrels with peak production of 55,000
barrels per day, providing much needed tax income for the
The field was discovered in 1981 but other firms left it
dormant for decades as development studies concluded that its
heavy, viscous oil and low well pressures made development too
"Others have tried since 1981 but the technology is in our
DNA and we draw on our heavy oil experience at Grane field on
the Norwegian continental shelf," Lars Christian Bacher,
Statoil's executive vice president for international development
"Technology is not the same as in 1981 and of course oil
prices are also not the same as in 1981," he added.
The Bressay field to the north of Mariner, and which
analysts say could produce between 200 million and 300 million
barrels, will be next on state-controlled Statoil's agenda in
the UK, with a final investment decision to be made next year.
Britain's oil and gas production, long a boon for now dire
public finances, peaked in 1999 and fell by 19 percent in 2011,
its biggest annual decline, industry lobby Oil and Gas UK said.
Industry players feared that a tax hike last year would
discourage investments and lead to a further decline but high
oil prices and some new government concessions on taxes, as well
as big new finds on the Norwegian side of the North Sea revived
"The approval of Mariner can in part be attributed to recent
close engagement with the Treasury and the resulting tax changes
aimed at boosting investment in a range of difficult fields
including heavy oil projects," Oil and Gas UK said.
A study published in December forecast that British oil
output would rise in the next few years and in the past two
months, two other projects, Dana's $1.6 billion investment in
the Western Isles, and Talisman's $2.55 billion
Montrose redevelopment have both been given the go-ahead.
Mariner is the second decades-old project Statoil has
revived in two days.
On Thursday, it approved spending $5.4 billion on its Dagny
field in Norway, which was first discovered in 1974.
Mariner, consisting of two shallow reservoirs, is expected
to create more than 700 long-term full-time jobs and could
operate for 30 years, Statoil said.
Statoil holds 65.11 percent of the project, JX Nippon
Exploration and Production has 28.89 percent and Alba
Resources, a unit of Cairn Energy 6 percent.