Despite the temporary pick up in UK output, there has been no change in fortunes for North Sea production overall, as data released by the NPD showed Norwegian output falling to a five month low at 1.788 mb/d, lower y/y by 0.31 mb/d and m/m by 88 thousand b/d. This was the weakest reading for any month since 1991 excluding maintenance related downturns (usually in Q3). Statoil's Oseberg and Troll fields were operating at reduced rates through February, while BP's Skarv field, which has only just come on-stream, also started to experience problems. The Valhall field too saw reduced output in addition to Statoil's Grane field, which was out for a week due to maintenance. Meanwhile, final data for January was also weak, with crude output at 1.876 mb/d, lower y/y by 0.231 mb/d. Output from the country's largest fields Troll and Ekofisk have been in decline since early 2000, while production at the other large fields – Asgard and Grane – has been in decline since 2011. In January, output from these four largest fields was lower y/y by 88 thousand b/d, highlighting the problems of high decline rates in a mature basin. Overall, Norway's ageing fields face significant planned maintenance (such as Ekofisk in June that will reduce output at the field by 0.1 mb/d) and will see decline rates remain steep, leaving ample downside risk to consensus forecasts.
Meanwhile, gas sales from Norway were down by 16% m/m, at 8.85 bcm, in February (vs. output of 10.48 bcm in January). Although gas sales are forecast by the NPD to rebound to 10 Bcm in March, an unexpected outage at the Troll field and intermittent problems at the plant processing gas from Shell's Ormen Lange field are likely to make it difficult to reach that target.