FEATURE: Offshore Technology Focus – Statoil’s Gullfaks field: 30 years down, over 20 to go

Statoil’s Gullfaks field, the first ever to be both developed and operated by the company, has celebrated its 30-year anniversary. Most impressively, it is only middle aged and is expected to continue on into the mid-2030s – nearly 30 years beyond the original development plan. Heidi Vella reports on what Gullfaks has meant for Statoil.

The name Gullfaks comes from the word “Gullblokken” (the Golden Block), the original name given to block 34/10, where the main Gullfaks field lies in the Norwegian North Sea, prior to its allocation in 1978.

And the block has certainly proved golden for Norway’s Statoil. It was the first field the oil and gas multinational would both develop and operate, and provided a platform for the company to effectively find its feet on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

Despite foreign interest in the block being very high – hence its nickname – its licence was originally awarded to a wholly Norwegian group, consisting of Statoil (85%),Hydro (9%), a now defunct division of Norsk Hydro, and the now closed Saga (6%). This was the first time a purely domestic consortium had been awarded an offshore licence.

Through Gullfaks, Statoil has developed and tested several key technological capabilities and significantly expanded its subsea installations. Without the technology first used at Gullfaks, it could not have developed fields such as Åsgard, which ranks among the largest developments on the NCS, and Troll, which represents around 40 % of total NCS gas reserves.

This experience ultimately led to Statoil bringing onstream the world’s first subsea wet gas compression system on the seafloor of Gullfaks field in 2015.

Extending Gullfaks

First explorations of Gullfaks in the 1970s indicated that it was a significant oil and gas reservoir, yet the field was not expected to operate long into the new millennium.

Since production started at Gullfaks on 22 December 1986, 2.6 billion barrels of oil (bbo) have passed the loading buoys, according to the company. And last year, The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) gave the green light for the company to use the oil and gas platform on the Gullfaks field in the North Sea until 1 January 2036, which corresponds to the length of the production license.

“Wise decisions, outstanding subsurface work, the use of new technology and good teamwork in the Norwegian petroleum cluster have more than tripled the expected field life and ensured enormous value creation from Gullfaks,” says Gunnar Nakken, senior vice president for the operation’s west cluster.

“After 30 years, we still believe in Gullfaks, which has seen major investments and undergone extensive upgrades in recent years,” adds Nakken, who is also Statoil’s site manager in Bergen.

In total, the project consists of three production platforms: Gullfaks A (1986), Gullfaks B (1988), and Gullfaks C (1989).

Over the years, the project has continued to grow. Statoil opened the valves of its very first subsea well in Gullfaks and the technology has since been used on many other fields, with many satellites linking back to the field. These include Rimfaks, Skinfaks and Gullveig – which have all been developed with subsea wells remotely controlled from the Gullfaks A and C platforms.

The Rimfaks satellite began production in 1999, Skinfaks in 2007, Gimle in 2006 and Gullveig in 1998.

Read the full feature here