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Frigg - Goddess at journey's end

The Frigg story is an essential part of Norway's offshore history, but this Anglo-Norwegian goddess with a French consort is getting ready to say adieu:
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has granted Total E&P Norge its consent for partial removal and disposal of the installations on the Norwegian part of the Frigg field. The plan is to stop production from the field on 1 July 2004, clean the production equipment and remove parts of the installations.

It will soon be possible to write "fin" for Frigg after a quarter of acentury of production astride the UK-Norwegian boundary line in the North Sea. This gas field was brought on stream in 1977 by French oil company Elf, now Total E&P Norge.

About 60 per cent of Frigg lies on the Norwegian side of the median line, and this field hosts the only bridge linking Britain with Norway. It connects two of the platforms.

Plans for Frigg's official inauguration in 1978 even envisaged that Britain's Queen Elizabeth and King Olav of Norway would walk from their respective sides and meet in the middle of this bridge.

But security concerns made it impossible to stage such a unusual monarchical meeting between the two countries. So King Olav alone performed the 8 May ceremony on the field, when he unveiled a bas relief of the ancient Norse goddess of love.

Soon Frigg will be only history, apart from its abandoned installations. But this story has certainly been a European one, involving Norway, Britain and France.

The French and Norwegian licensees sold their output to British Gas. At peak, the field supplied the UK with a third of its daily gas requirements.

Frigg may have been the premier Norse goddess, but the field named after her was not the first in the North Sea. All the same, its discovery in 1971 was hailed as a great and important gift.

Coming two years after Norway's first commercial find on Ekofisk, this field in block 25/1 created even higher expectations of these waters as an oil and gas province. The shape of this formation on seismic maps also won it an admiring name among geologists: the Chinese butterfly.

Frigg may have been primarily a gas field, but it did contain oil in a very thin but fairly extensive underlying zone. Recovering these reserves was un-profitable with available technology.

Today, the oil zone in Frigg might have been produced before the gas was depleted, as is the case on Norway's giant Troll field further east in the North Sea. Despite disappointment over the oil, Frigg ranked in 1971 as the world's largest offshore gas discovery and set the standard for all later Norwegian gas finds.

People have talked about "equal to Frigg", "twice Frigg" and so forth. By that measure, Ormen Lange is the equivalent of two Friggs - and perhaps a little more.

Frigg has quietly produced at a regular pace since 1977, midway between the better-known Statfjord and Ekofisk fields. However, it got off to a difficult start.

The oil crisis of 1973-74 and the consequent rise in prices hit development plans hard. Delays also arose, because one steel jacket landed in the wrong place during installation. But the field has gone on producing steadily, and Elf also ensured that the surrounding area was vacuumed for gas resources by adopting new and necessary technology.

The North-East Frigg satellite was the first remotely operated field on the Norwegian continental shelf. This goddess also has little sisters.

Elf would hardly have been a French company if it did not include a bar for the crew in its plans for the Frigg living quarters. Rumour has it among NPD veterans that this proposal was adorned with a big cross, to symbolise a decisive rejection by Norwegian bureaucrats.

Even former prime minister Per Borten had been required to drink milk when he visited the Ocean Viking rig on Ekofisk the year before Frigg was found.

Norway is Norway, even midway between the British and the French.

(The origin to this article was published in the Norwegian Petroleum Diary no 4/2002)