Deal rejection disappoints

December 22, 1999, 08:00 CET

Disappointment has been expressed by Statoil at the refusal of a majority of oil companies working off Norway to approve an anti-pollution deal.

The group was a prime mover in trying to reach a voluntary agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment on recovering volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off from shuttle tankers.

It will now be up to the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) to issue new regulations for reducing VOC emissions from Norway's offshore sector.

Statoil has headed a joint industry project embracing 18 oil companies to develop technology for recovering VOCs as part of efforts to meet Norway's official commitment to cut its overall emissions of these pollutants by 30 per cent.

More than half the Norwegian VOCs released to the atmosphere derive from offshore loading of shuttle tankers.

Two approaches have been pursued to reduce these emissions – returning recovered VOCs to the cargo and using them as fuel for the vessel.

Statoil has expressed regret that its efforts to achieve a voluntary agreement between the oil companies and the ministry broke down last week.

"I'm afraid it could remain difficult for the companies to strike voluntary deals with the Norwegian environmental authorities in the future as well," says Geir Pettersen, vice president for the operations business unit in Exploration & Production Norway.

In cooperation with Danish engine-builder MAN B&W Diesel, Statoil has developed a VOC Fuel plant which can reduce emissions during loading by up to 70 per cent.

VOC emissions from a single cargo of offshore crude contain sufficient energy to fuel a tanker for the round trip from Statfjord in the North Sea to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. This means that collecting these fumes offers savings on bunkers oil.

Using recovered VOCs as fuel also achieves a considerable reduction in exhaust gases from the ship's engines.

Plans called for five shuttle tankers carrying oil from Statoil's Statfjord and Gullfaks in the North Sea to be fitted with VOC recovery plants by the end of 2001. The collapse of the voluntary deal means that this conversion project has been shelved until further notice.