Oil in Norway

Recoverable reserves800million tonnes

Production92.3million tonnes per year

Production ratio9years

Starting with the discovery of the Ekofisk oil field in 1970, successful exploration in Norway’s North Sea waters has brought the country into No. 1 position in Europe (excluding the Russian Federation), in terms of oil in place, proved reserves and production.

On the basis of data published by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), total remaining oil reserves at end-2008 amounted to 7 491 million barrels, comprised of 919 million m3 (5 780 million barrels) of crude oil, 120 million tonnes (1 440 million barrels) of NGLs and 43 million m3 (270 million barrels) of condensate. ‘Remaining reserves’ are defined as ‘remaining recoverable petroleum resources in deposits for which the authorities have approved the plan for development and operation (PDO) or granted a PDO exemption’. They ‘also include petroleum resources in deposits that the licensees have decided to develop, but for which the authorities have not as yet completed processing of either a PDO approval or a PDO exemption’.

In addition to ‘remaining reserves’, the NPD reports ‘contingent resources’, defined as ‘discovered quantities of petroleum for which no development decision has yet been made’, and ‘potential from improved recovery’: together these represent 688 million m3 (4 327 million barrels) of crude oil, 42 million tonnes (502 million barrels) of NGLs and 32 million m3 (201 million barrels) of condensate – a total additional recoverable resource of just over 5 billion barrels. Over and above these amounts, the NPD estimates that Norway possesses about 9.6 billion barrels of ‘undiscovered resources’, comprising 1 260 million m3 (7 925 million barrels) of crude oil and 265 million m3 (1 667 million barrels) of condensate. Undiscovered resources include ‘petroleum volumes expected to be present in defined plays, confirmed and unconfirmed, but which have not yet been proven by drilling’.

As a frame of reference, it may be noted that Norway’s cumulative oil production to the end of 2008 consisted of 3 405 million m3 (21 417 million barrels) of crude oil, 116 million tonnes (

1 386 million barrels) of NGLs and 96 million m3 (604 million barrels) of condensate, for a grand total of 23 407 million barrels of oil, compared with its total remaining discovered and undiscovered oil resources of 22 106 million barrels. Following 16 years of unremitting growth, Norwegian oil production levelled off in the late 1990s and since 2001 has followed a gently downward path. Nearly 84% of Norway’s 2008 crude oil production of some 2.1 million b/d was exported, mostly to Western European countries, Canada and the USA.

According to The Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ), Norway had 5.32 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of January 1, 2012, the largest oil reserves in Western Europe. All of Norway’s oil reserves are located offshore on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS), which is divided into three sections: the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. The bulk of Norway’s oil production occurs in the North Sea, with smaller amounts in the Norwegian Sea and new exploration and production activity occurring in the Barents Sea. 

In June 2012, Norway’s oil and gas production faced being completely shut-in when an offshore workers strike began over employers’ plans to increase the retirement age from 62 to 67. Government intervention stopped the strike, during which cutbacks to the country’s production affected 15 percent of oil and 7 percent of gas production, according to Statoil.

In 2011, Norway produced 2.0 million bbl/d of petroleum and other fuels, of which about 87 percent was crude oil. Norway’s petroleum production has been gradually declining since 2001 as oil fields have matured. The NPD expects that production will continue to decline slowly over the next few years, and that in the longer term the number and size of new discoveries will be a critical factor in maintaining production levels. Currently, seventy fields are in production on the NCS. The three largest producing oil fields are Ekofisk, which produced 162,000 bbl/d in 2010; Grane, which produced 166,000 bbl/d; and Troll, which produced 118,000 bbl/d.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Norway exported an estimated 1.45 million bbl/d of crude oil in 2011, of which 90 percent went to OECD European countries. The top five importers of Norwegian oil (crude plus products) in 2011 were the United Kingdom (52 percent), the Netherlands (18 percent), the United States (10 percent), France (8 percent), and Germany (5 percent).


Oil data represents Crude Oil only, for extra-heavy oil and oil shale please refer to the WER 2013 report oil chapter.