WARSAW. MARCH 1. INTERFAX CENTRAL EUROPE - [Adds background/details] Poland's gas monopolist PGNiG agreed to buy a 15% share in licenses for the extraction of gas and oil from Skarv and Snadd fields off the coast of Norway, paying USD 360 mln for the share, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a press conference Thursday.
"This purchase promises a breakthrough when it comes to getting the diversification of gas supplies," Kaczynski said. "Contrary to what some may believe, getting it, especially after decisions made by the [Leszek] Miller government [in 2001-2004], was not easy. Progress was made gradually and now we've made a very important step.
"[...] We believe we can now optimistically look at what will be happening with the construction of a gas pipeline and deliveries from various directions," he added.
PGNiG signed the agreement to buy the 15% share from ExxonMobil Production Norway Inc and Mobil Development Norway A/S. According to Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the fields have a total estimated capacity of 35.8 bln cubic meters of natural gas, 18.3 bln cubic meters of crude oil and condensate, and 5.8 mln tons of natural gas liquids.
PGNiG said the capacity is likely to rise by 20% after expanding the license to include the Idun field, but PGNiG's share in the license will then be diluted.
A "front end engineering design" is begin drafted as part of the development effort. The drafting of the development plan is expected to commence in mid-2007, with extraction planned for mid-2011. PGNiG estimates the investment outlays on developing the field will total USD 5 bln, including USD 600 mln PGNiG will have to contribute.
British Petroleum is the direct operator of the field, with other partners being Shell, Statoil, and Norsk Hydro.
The Polish government has made energy diversification a top priority in the wake of what it perceives to be Russia's increasingly political approach to gas and oil supply.