Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Oil production from the Maria field in the Norwegian Sea will start nearly a year ahead of schedule and at a reduced cost, a national regulator said Thursday.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate granted German energy company Wintershall consent to start production from the field.
"Production start-up is planned for December 2017, about 10 months ahead of the original plan, which was for start-up in the fourth quarter of 2018," the regulator stated. "The investment costs are just over $1.4 billion, whereas the estimate in the plan for development and operations was $1.9 billion."
Wintershall hinted early this year that its flagship Maria field offshore Norway was progressing steadily toward development by utilizing existing infrastructure to conserve capital.
The company estimates the Maria field holds about 180 million barrels of oil equivalent and most of that exists as oil. The Norwegian regulator said the field should stay in production for about 22 years.
Norway is a primary oil and natural gas supplier to the European market, apart from Russia. The NPD said oil production in September, the last full month for which it published data, was 1.44 million barrels per day, about 3.6 percent higher than last year, but 11 percent below expectations for the month.
Production was lower for Norway because of maintenance work at some of its oil fields.
Wintershall offered no comment when asked by UPI about the start of production at Maria.
Wintershall is a division of BASF, which said sales from its oil and gas segment rose "considerably" when compared with third quarter 2017. The company realized a price for Brent crude oil at $52 per barrel during the quarter, compared with $46 per barrel last year.