Shell’s gas discovery in Norway: the “huge” find in context

Royal Dutch Shell has caused some excitement with reports of a “huge” gas discovery off the coast of Norway.

The truth is, the field may be pretty big, but even if the most optimistic estimates are right, it will not come close to the top of the list of the world’s biggest gas fields.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate estimated the Gro (pronounced “grew”) field could hold 10bn-100bn cubic metres of gas. As the NPD said itself, “the size of the discovery is currently very uncertain.” Shell, which shares the field with StatoilHydro of Norway and GDF Suez of France, says there is a lot more appraisal and evaluation work to be done.

Commercialising the discovery will not be easy, either: it is 360km offshore, in 1,376 metres of water.

At the upper end of the estimated range, Gro would be a good-sized field: the biggest found in Norway since Ormen Lange in 1997. However, Ormen Lange is four times the size of that top estimate, at 400bcm.

Even at 100bcm, Gro would add only about 3 per cent to Norway’s proved gas reserves. It could provide the whole of the UK’s gas demand for just a single year. In barrels of oil equivalent, that would be about 600m barrels, and Shell’s share, 50 per cent, would be less than 3 per cent of its reserves of 11.9bn boe at the end of last year. It is worth having, but Shell needs to keep finding more Gros.

For comparison, South Iolotan in Turkmenistan could be more 100 times the size of Gro. Now that’s a huge gas field.

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