Melkøya, outside Hammerfest in Finnmark county, is a facility that receives and processes natural gas from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea. The gas is conveyed in a 160 km gas pipeline to the facility, which became operational in the autumn of 2007. Statoil was the operator during the development phase and now has operational responsibility for the facility.
At the onshore facility at Melkøya, condensate, water and CO2 are separated from the well stream before the natural gas is cooled down to a liquid form (LNG = liquefied natural gas) and stored in dedicated tanks. The pipeline has a capacity of 7.6 billion Sm3 a year. CO2 is separated from the natural gas and returned to the Snøhvit field, where it is injected in a separate formation under the reservoirs. The gas is subsequently exported in custom-built LNG ships.
Snøhvit is the first development in the Barents Sea, and the first major development on the Norwegian continental shelf with no surface installations. Large quantities of natural gas are brought onshore and cooled down at the most northerly export facility for LNG, Liquefied Natural Gas.
There are no visible signs of the field; no platform or production vessels in the Barents Sea mark its place. The production facilities are located on the seabed, at depths of 250–345 metres. The seabed facilities are designed to be over-trawlable, so that neither they nor fishing equipment will suffer any damage from coming into contact with each other. A total of 20 wells will be drilled here to produce gas from the Snøhvit, Askeladd and Albatross fields.
The construction of an onshore compression plant can increase the extraction rate for the Snøhvit field from 45 to 70 per cent of available gas. In practice, this means that billions more kroner in value can be extracted from the seabed off the coast of Finnmark.