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Equinor lines up rig for Northern Lights well

Semisub to drill Eos test well east of Troll field for Norwegian carbon capture and storage project

Equinor has lined up a rig to drill a test well for carbon dioxide storage off Norway in November as it joins partners Total and Shell in committing a total of 150 people to a groundbreaking and challenging carbon capture and storage project.

Seadrill's semi-submersible rig West Hercules has been chartered for the work.

The Norwegian state-controlled player is seeking a drilling permit from authorities for injection and storage of carbon dioxide in a subsea reservoir under the proposed Northern Lights project.

The Eos well will be located 15 kilometres east of the giant Troll gas field.

An Equinor spokesman told Upstream that the partners aim to develop the world’s first storage facility capable of receiving CO2 from various industrial sources.

“It is necessary to confirm our assessments of the reservoir’s suitability and storage capacity, and we are therefore planning to drill a confirmation well in November,” he said, adding that the ongoing work is challenging with “more than 150 people from Equinor, Shell and Total currently assigned to the Northern Lights project”.

The well is expected to cost Nkr535 million ($60 million) to drill.

The Norwegian state will cover 75% of the costs, with an upside limit of Nkr345 million, according to Norway’s revised national budget for 2019.

The Northern Lights project is planned to consist of a CO2 receiving terminal, an offshore pipeline, injection and CO2 storage.

The Norwegian carbon capture and storage demonstration project is planned to be based on capturing CO2 from two possible capture sites — Fortum Oslo Varme’s waste-to-energy facility in Oslo and Norcem’s cement factory in Brevik.

The captured CO2 liquids will be shipped from the capture sites to a new CO2 receiving terminal outside Bergen.

The CO2 will then be injected into the Northern Lights geological storage complex via subsea injection wells and an offshore pipeline from the CO2 receiving terminal.

Prelimininary assessments indicate the whole project will cost about Nkr10 billion.

Equinor’s spokesman said Norwegian authorities are planning for a final investment decision on Northern Lights to be taken in 2020.

“If the authorities approve the project, our plan is to start up in the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024,” he said.

However, industry sources said the challenges are massive. “The project is very challenging, both technically and commercially,” said one.

It is still unclear whether the companies or the authorities will take the huge risk concerning cost overruns or problems with the reservoir.

At its Snohvit field in the Barents Sea, in which CO2 storage formed a part of the project, Equinor ran into issues as reinjected CO2 migrated from another reservoir into the producing Snohvit reservoir.

”It is unclear who will cover the costs if Troll becomes polluted by injected CO2,” the source said.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has instructed Equinor to assess how any possibility of CO2 migration to Troll would be handled in its plan for development and operation of the Northern Lights project.

Equinor’s spokesman said it is important to get in place a commercial framework for CO2 storage before a final investment decision is taken.

Norwegian authorities do not want to discuss details of the ongoing talks about costs with the Northern Lights partners.

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