'Superwave' storm could hit Norway oil facilities

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Photo: BP p.l.c.
14:15 CET+01:00
A massive Atlantic weather front set to bring storms to half of Norway on Friday could bring a feared 30-metre “100-year wave” crashing into the offshore oil and gas installations lubricating the economy.

The potential hurricane forced an emergency meeting at oil company BP Norway's Stavanger headquarters. As the oil company pondered possible shut-downs, meteorologists met to decide on a name for the storm.

“Winds up around hurricane strength in combination with such extreme low-frequency waves can create big problems for oil production in the Norwegian Sea,” said storm weather centre meteorologist Roar Inge Hansen.

The Norwegian Sea oilfields Skarv and Heidrun — which cost 120 billion kroner ($20.5 billion) but inject 6 billion kroner per year into the economy —  look set to bear the brunt of the coming big weather. Skarv, a tanker with production equipment onboard and below its hull, is connected to underwater oil pipelines. Heidrun stands on a concrete pylon.

At least six helicopters a week fly out to the Skarv production ship from nearby Brønnøysund on the mainland 200 kilometres to the east. At Skarv and bracing for the storm are the two companies hit hardest by the Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year — BP and Transocean.

Norway’s oil infrastructure is built to tackle the “biggest waves in a hundred years”, yet weather has forced evacuations of platforms and land-based installations in the past.

The storm Narve forced an evacuation by cruise vessel of Statoil’s prestige Arctic gas installation Snøhvit in Hammerfest

The 100-year wave will test the Skarv facility’s 15 innovative suction anchors as well as the 300-metre-long ship itself. Its tanks can hold 850,000 barrels of oil at a time.

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BP and Statoil, the two big players in the Norwegian Sea, can stop production ahead of the weather front’s impact if deemed necessary. While Skarv isn’t the only production ship in the Norwegian Sea, its vessel type is normally only deployed in the world’s tropical doldrums, where storms are less savage.

All of central and northern Norway, especially the rocky whaling communities of the Lofoten Archipelago, has been warned to stay clear of the coast on Friday.

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