Gassco: Transporting Gas from NCS to Europe

Published Dec 12, 2003
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Gassco is responsible for the transportation of all gas from the Norwegian Continental Shelf to Europe. The company was established by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy on 14th of May 2001, and commenced its operations on 1st of January 2002.

Prior to this, the gas transport was carried out by several companies, with Statoil, the Norwegian State oil Company, being by far the biggest operator. The establishment of Gassco came as a result of reorganization on the NCS that has taken place since 2001. Another factor was the liberalization of European gas market, as set up in the EU Gas Directive. The establishment of Gassco is expressed in Proposition no. 36 (2000 – 2001) to the Norwegian Parliament and Recommendation no. 198 (2000 – 2001) of the Parliament Committee of Energy and Environment. Both documents underline that the transportation and processing facilities should serve all producers of gas, and that Gassco is to be neutral in relation to these companies. These documents furthermore emphasize the efficient exploitation of the offshore resources and Gassco’s role in further developing of the transport system.

The intention of the Norwegian Government when establishing Gassco was:

  • The gas transport, processing and receiving facilities will serve all producers of gas.
  • Contribute to the efficient use of the resource on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
  • Act neutrally in relation to all users of the transport system.
  • Gassco to play a central role regarding further development of the transport system.

One of the hubs in Gassco’s processing and distribution center is the Kårstø processing and receiving plant, located outside Haugesund in the southwestern part of Norway. It is also one of the largest gas processing facilities in Europe. The gas from several offshore fields is transported to Kårstø through the Statpipe and Åsgard transport systems. This gas is called “rich gas”.

Upon arrival at the processing plant NGL (Natural Gas Liquids) is extracted from the gas. This is achieved by cooling the gas to a low temperature (-60C) without ice forming in the pipes or processing equipment.

The gas is then routed to a part of the plant where the various gas qualities are separated. This takes place by heating the gas at the bottom of a tall tower enabling the lightest components in the gas mixture to evaporate and be removed at the top of the tower. The remainder of the gas is then transported to the next tower, and so on, until all the gases have been separated into the familiar products, ethane, propane etc.

From Kårstø the dry gas is exported in pipelines to the customers on the continent. Vessels are used to ship ethane, propane, butane, naphtha and condensate to customers in Norway and the continent. The number of shipments from Kårstø is increasing, and is expected to reach 700 – 800 a year.

The Transport System
Common ownership
In December 2002 a common ownership for all pipelines was established, named Gassled. The oil companies, including the State owned company Petoro, all own shares in the enormous transport system. In short: Gassled owns the pipelines, the processing and the receiving facilities, while Gassco is the operator. The transport system is handling gas with a daily value of NOK 210 millions in addition to NGL with a value of NOK 70 millions.

The transport system constitutes an incredible 6.500 km of pipelines, ranging from 42-inch pipelines on Franpipe, Europipe II and Åsgard transport system to 16-inch pipelines on Haltenpipe and Norne Gas Transport System. The extensive pipeline system can be seen on the map included on these pages. The gas is routed through the riser platforms Heimdal Riser, Sleipner Riser and Draupner Riser. These are hubs for the different pipeline systems, and their most important function is to control the pressure, quantity and quality of the gas exports.

Landing Terminals
Emden, Germany
Rysumer Nacken outside Emden in Northern Germany is where the Europipe metering plant is located. Right next to this facility is the Norpipe metering plant located. Emden has been a gas delivery hub since 1977, when Norpipe was opened. The gas is filtered and then goes through a quality and quantity control check before it is delivered to customers in Germany, Poland, Austria, The Netherlands and Chech Republic. The customer’s pipeline systems are connected to the metering station.

Dornum, Germany
At the landing terminal in Dornum the gas comes ashore through the Europipe and Europipe II systems. The facility in Dornum filtrates, undertakes pressure controls and heats up the gas before it is transported through a 48 km long pipeline to the metering plant in Emden and into the pipeline systems in Netra.

Zeebrugge, Belgium and Dunkerque, France
The landing terminal at Zeebrugge is an integrated part of the Zeepipe system. The landing terminal at Dunkerque in France is the receiving facilities for the Franpipe system. The operations at this terminal are remotely operated from Zeebrugge. The terminals in Zeebrugge and Dunkerque are tied to the transportation network in the North Sea.

St. Fergus, Scotland
This terminal receives gas from the Vesterled pipeline from Heimdal on the NCS. In addition St. Fergus receives gas from fields on the English sector for further processing.

The Future
We asked Gassco’s managing Director Brian Bjordal to give us some views of the future of the Norwegian gas industry, “if you look at the Norwegian gas industry, we have a 50 years perspective on our operation. This gives us reason for optimism, as new fields will be available and our operation will be steadily expanding. The forecast for the gas industry shows an expected growth until 2005. A new pipeline is planned for connection from the Ormen Lange field to England”. Aker Kvaerner’s Aker Stord yard has just received a letter of intent from Statoil for a large program of installation work at the gas terminal at Kårstø. This will prepare the facility to receive gas from the Kristin field starting in 2005. The work, which has an overall value of more than NOK 700 millions, was awarded on behalf of Gassco operating company.

Gas in Norway
In spite of being one of the largest producers of gas, Norway has been dependant on oil and hydroelectric power for its energy supply. The topography of the country is a limiting factor in establishing a national pipeline system. However this is about to change. A local distribution company, Gasnor, has established a distribution network in the Haugesund area serving some of the largest consumers in the local industry. A project has also been established with the intention of supplying a local ferry company with gas for their new ferries, which will reduce pollution significantly compared to today’s diesel engines.

A new pipeline connected to Gassled is currently under construction by Lyse Energi, a traditional supplier of electric energy, to connect Kårstø to the old Shell refinery site in Risavika south of Stavanger. This opens up a great market in the area, supplying gas for both industrial, agricultural and domestic use. So, be prepared Norway. The gas age is dawning!

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