Norwegian energy company Equinor said it's sending more gas to Hammerfest, Europe's only large-scale LNG facility. Photo courtesy of Ole Jorgen Bratland/Equinor
Dec. 12 (UPI) -- New offshore natural gas production in Norway will help raise the production plateau from Europe's only large-scale LNG plant, Norwegian energy company Equinor said Monday.
Equinor said the first phase of the Askeladd field, tied into the larger Snohvit field, can now send significant volumes of natural gas to the Hammerfest LNG plant on the island of Melkoya, just south of the Arctic Circle.
"Askeladd is now producing (and) the gas will help extend plateau production from Hammerfest LNG on Melkoya for up to three years," said Thor Johan Haave, Equinor's vice president of operations and maintenance at Hammerfest.
Hammerfest under normal conditions represents about 5% of total Norwegian natural gas exports, which is enough to satisfy the demand from around 6.5 million average European households.
Norway is among the largest producers and exporters of both crude oil and natural gas in the world, an importance that's only more pronounced because it powers its own economy almost entirely with hydroelectricity.
Its production has become even more important for a European economy looking to break Russia's grip on the regional energy sector. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that, before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February, the EU relied on Russia for 40% of its natural gas supplies. Much of that market share has since been captured by the likes of the United States and Norway.
Data from Gas Infrastructure Europe, meanwhile, show that regional gas storage levels are about 88% full, suggesting early-year concerns over a cold winter without Russian supplies were overblown. Nevertheless, data show gas storage levels are on the decline amid a regional cold snap
Norway's government reported that total gas sales from October, the last full month for which data are available, increased by 18% compared with the prior month.