Natural gas produced is exported via pipelines through the Gassled system from Norway to European markets (which Statoil has a 32.1% ownership in). The majority of gas produced, around 80% to 90%, is sold through long-term contracts to large European gas utility companies and suppliers. The remaining gas is traded on the spot market and direct to major end users in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the UK. Some natural gas from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea in the Arctic is converted into LNG for the export market further afield and is Europe’s only exporter of LNG. In November 2011 Statoil signed an agreement to acquire Hess’s 3.26% stake in the Snøhvit field, adjacent production licenses and Hammerfest LNG-facility located in Melkøya.
Statoil has developed spirally-wound heat exchangers (SWHE) for the liquefaction of natural gas and has invested heavily in R&D in this space. There are plans for an LNG plant in single liquefaction process known as a single LNG ‘train’ in Melkøya using Statoil and Linde’s triple cycle MFC® technology. This uses a single liquefaction process known as a single LNG ‘train’ with a capacity of 4.3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). Research is also underway on the development of a single LNG ‘train’ with a capacity of 8 mtpa in warm climates and 9 mtpa in cold climates.
The company has plans for a floating LNG plant. This would have to overcome certain challenges, namely the floating plant would have to be more compact than its onshore counterpart; it must consume less energy; and would have to meet more stringent safety requirements.
In third countries Statoil has a 25.5% stake in the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan with both gas and condensates. Produced gas is transported via the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) to the Georgian-Turkey border. An expansion to this pipeline is currently under development. Phase 1 will expand capacity to between 8.8 and 9 bcm and phase 2 to 16 bcm. This will further open up the field to European consumers.