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Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has announced that it has received approval from the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for its plans to develop the Mariner heavy oil field in the North Sea.

Statoil claimed that the project, which will be carried out with an investment of more than $7bn, will be the largest new offshore development in the UK.

Commenting on the approval, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Edward Davey, said North Sea oil and gas is an important asset, which will provide energy security to the nation, reduce the UK’s dependence on volatile international energy markets and support thousands of jobs.

"Mariner will be one of the biggest projects ever in the North Sea and the £4.6bn commitment over 40 years from Statoil is a vote of confidence in the future of UK oil and gas. Importantly, unlocking heavy oil production marks a new chapter in development, opening the potential for five percent of our oil reserves," Davey added.

The company is planning to commence production from Mariner oil field in 2017, while the field is anticipated to produce oil for about 30 years.

The field, which is located on the East Shetland Platform of the UK North Sea, about 150km east of the Shetland Isles, is expected to produce about 55,000 barrels of oil per day over the plateau period from 2017 to 2020.

"The company is planning to commence production from Mariner oil field in 2017, while the field is anticipated to produce oil for about 30 years."

As part of the project, the Mariner field will include a production, drilling and quarters (PDQ) platform based on a steel jacket, with 50 active well slots and a floating storage unit (FSU) of 850,000 barrels in capacity.

It will also include a jack-up rig, which will be deployed for the first four to five years during the project. Plans are underway to set up an operations centre in Aberdeen, Scotland, to execute the project, said Statoil.

In 2007, Statoil acquired a 44.4% stake and operatorship of Mariner field from Chevron, while it bought an additional 20.7% interest from Nautical Petroleum in 2010.

JX Nippon Exploration and Production (UK) and Alba Resources are the other partners in Mariner field development, each holding 28.9% and six percent interest, respectively.

Statoil, which has extensive heavy oil experience from offshore fields in Norway and Brazil, won seven licences in the 27th Licence Round, both in the UK North Sea and the UK Shetland basin.

Statoil president and CEO Helge Lund said: "Statoil and its partners appreciate the cooperation from the UK Government and the approval of the development plan for this landmark project."

"The North Sea is a core area for Statoil and we look forward to taking a leading role in further developing also the UK part of this basin."

Oil & Gas UK economics director Mike Tholen, who welcomed the DECC’s approval to develop the Mariner oil field, commented: "The scale of the investment highlights the strength of current activity in the sector and the continuing importance of oil and gas to the economy."

Image: Illustration of the Mariner field. Photo courtesy of Statoil.