Nightman1965/Shutterstock Save for later Print Download Share LinkedIn Twitter Norway cashed in on record earnings from piped exports to gas-hungry Europe in 2021, and state-run pipeline operator Gassco says it will be able to deliver even more gas this year. With no signs of Europe's energy crisis ending any time soon, the country will likely play an increasingly crucial role as a reliable and flexible supplier to the region.Norway's pipeline network delivered 113.2 billion cubic meters (11 billion cubic feet per day) to Europe in 2021, almost 6% more than the previous year. “And there is additional capacity in the pipeline network beyond the capacity in use today,” Gassco CEO Frode Leversund tells Energy Intelligence. The value of gas sales more than quadrupled year on year to a record 476 billion kroner ($53 billion) in 2021 as prices soared. The pipeline operator says it has rejigged its vast transport network to give it additional delivery capacity this year and beyond. Availability — the ability to meet contractual obligations — was 99.7% in 2021. “We also expect a high level of activity in 2022, both around new projects and with regard to gas demand,” Leversund said.Diversified SuppliesNorway accounts for roughly one-quarter of Europe’s energy consumption, Gassco says, second only to Russia's Gazprom. It will continue to make a key contribution as the EU strives to decarbonize and diversify away from Russia.With the possibility that all-out war between Russia and Ukraine could disrupt Russian supply, Norway’s Energy Minister Marte Mjos Persen was due to hold a virtual meeting on Feb. 22 with EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. “It is not a meeting about potential emergency gas supplies,” ministry spokeswoman Margrete Lobben Hanssen stressed, noting that Norwegian gas sales are based on companies’ own commercial assessments. “However, the current energy market situation will be one of the topics at the meeting,” she told Energy Intelligence.Flexible GasEurope's energy crisis has underlined the need to maintain indigenous gas production and suggests the region may need gas for longer than previously anticipated. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate forecasts output of just over 115 Bcm in 2022, although Wood Mackenzie reckons it might even beat the 125 Bcm recorded in 2017. Record prices have prompted some producers to prioritize flexible supply, while expectations that the market will remain tight may spur investment in new supply infrastructure. Leversund said Gassco received a high level of inquiries last year about new tie-ins to the transport system.A temporary tax package due to end this year could encourage more project sanctions. These could include Wintershall Dea’s Dvalin North tie-back scheme; Aker BP’s King Lear development; Shell’s Linnorm; and Equinor’s Asterix tie-back to the Aasta Hansteen platform. Equinor will also boost flexible production through increased quotas at Troll and Oseberg. Some operators may prioritize gas sales over gas reinjection, including Equinor at Gina Krog, Aker BP at Skarv and Lundin Energy at Edvard Grieg. Drilling of gas pockets and possibly gas caps will also be on the table if prices remain high, Aker BP CEO Johnny Hersvik says.New Exit PointGassco is due to open a new exit point in the transport system in October to allow Norwegian gas to be delivered to Poland. The third phase of the Baltic pipe development will have the capacity to transport 10 Bcm/yr just as Polish state-run PGNIG’s long-term contract with Gazprom expires. Actual volumes shipped will “of course be determined by the market,” Leversund said. PGNIG has been expanding its upstream footprint in Norway as it looks to boost its share of equity gas for export via the pipeline.Future Gas ExportsNorway will this year continue to assess the potential for additional gas export capacity in the Arctic Barents Sea, including pipeline transport, increased LNG capacity and low-carbon gases. Gassco is evaluating ways to adapt the transport network to carry carbon dioxide as well as hydrogen-spiked gas and blue and green hydrogen. Collaboration among regional operators over an integrated transport system will be crucial, Leversund said. Equinor, Var Energi and Horisont Energi are progressing with plans to transport CO2 captured from a new blue ammonia plant and store it under the Barents. The so-called Polaris carbon capture and storage scheme and Barents Blue ammonia plant could allow regional gas resources to be exported, Var said. A final investment decision is due by year's end.