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* Statoil to spend $5.7 bln on Aasta Hansteen gas project
* Consortium to build 480 km, $4.5 bln deepsea gas pipeline
* Developments open new area to exploration
By Gwladys Fouche and Balazs Koranyi
OSLO, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Norway's energy industry shifted its focus further north as oil and gas companies on Tuesday announced over $10 billion worth of projects in the Arctic to extract and transport offshore natural gas.
Statoil unveiled plans to develop its 47 billion cubic metre Aasta Hansteen gas field in the Norwegian Sea for $5.7 billion, and a consortium of 10 firms agreed to spend a further $4.5 billion to build the 480 kilometre Polarled pipeline to bring the gas to an onshore processing plant.
"No other oil/gas pipeline of this dimension has ever been laid this deep before," Statoil said. "Polarled will open a new region and facilitate further exploration activities and development of future discoveries in the area."
The investments are likely to lead to further investment in the Arctic and have set the stage for this summer's licensing round, in which Norway plans to sell 86 blocks, mostly in offshore Arctic areas.
"The Aasta Hansteen opens up a new gas province in the northern part of the Norwegian Sea," Norway's oil ministry said in a statement. "The creation of new infrastructure in the area will facilitate further development and increased exploration activity."
Polarled, Norway's biggest offshore gas pipeline since Langeled started to deliver Norwegian gas to Britain in 2007, will be finished by late 2016 and will also collect gas from several smaller fields, including Royal Dutch Shell's Linnorm and RWE's Zidane.
It will bring gas to the Shell-operated Nyhamna processing plant on Norway's western coast for export primarily to Britain, while possible tie-ins to other pipelines could open other export routes.
Aasta Hansteen, named after a late 19th century-early 20th century feminist painter and writer, will be running by the third quarter of 2017 in waters 1,300 metres deep and 300 kilometres from shore.
"If we make big finds, there will be big investments in infrastructure," Statoil's Norwegian development chief, Oeystein Michelsen, said in an interview.
Some analysts see the development as a test for how the energy industry will handle its move into the Arctic waters, particularly the more remote Barents Sea, where infrastructure is scarce.
That area lacks the pipelines necessary for gas development and needs either liquefied natural gas facilities or a new 1,000 kilometre pipeline to tie into the existing facilities.
Norway, the world's second-biggest piped gas exporter after Russia, supplies around a fifth of Europe's consumption.
Statoil already runs the Snoevhit LNG facility in Norway's Arctic, while Italian energy firm ENI will start up its Goliat field next year, the first oil development in Norway's part of the Barents Sea.
Partners in Polarled include Statoil, state-holding firm Petoro, OMV, Shell, Total, RWE, ConocoPhillips, Edison, Maersk and GDF Suez .
In Aasta Hansteen Statoil holds 75 percent, OMV has 15 percent and ConocoPhillips has 10 percent.