* Norway’s 2018 piped gas export near 2017 record
* 2019 piped exports could match 2018
* 2019 maintenance seen higher than 2018 (Adds quotes, detail)
By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos
OSLO, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Norway’s gas processing plants are better prepared to handle winter storms than they were a year ago when cold weather outages curbed flows to Britain, the chief executive of gas system operator Gassco told Reuters.
A cold snap dubbed the “Beast from the East” hit Europe in February, sending energy prices to 10-year highs as Norway’s Kollsnes plant drastically reduced output because equipment parts froze, stripping Britain of much-needed gas supplies.
Norway is Britain’s largest external gas supplier and its piped flows fuel more than 40 percent of the country’s total consumption during winter. The Kollsnes plant, which had outages last year, processes gas that reaches both Britain and Germany.
“We have done all the preparations during the summer maintenance so we should be in a better position from last year if similar weather comes,” Chief Executive Frode Leversund said.
Total piped exports in 2018 will be the second highest ever, slightly below a 2017 record of 117.4 billion cubic metres (bcm). Production nearly matched that of 2017, but in 2018 more gas was injected to fields instead of being exported, he added.
When gas demand declines in the summer, Gassco’s plants that are designed to deal with extreme weather undergo repairs to parts damaged during the previous winter.
Maintenance across the Norwegian gas system will be higher in 2019, but piped exports could match those of 2018 as the Aasta Hansteen field is added to the system and if summer demand is as strong as it was this year, Leversund said.
In 2018, Norway’s gas exports hit a summer record of 36.8 bcm to refill European gas storage, depleted by the harsh winter.
Gassco’s calculates that maintenance-related output losses from 2014 to 2025 will average 3 bcm annually, versus 5 bcm annually between 2005 and 2013.
Gassco is in close cooperation with Britain’s gas system operator National Grid and does not expect Britain’s departure from the European Union to have an impact on exports as these are based on a bilateral treaty.
Norway will be able to deliver gas to Poland from 2022, via the planned Baltic Pipe. Leversund said the development will slightly increase the capacity of the Europipe 2 pipeline to Germany and to which the new pipe will be connected.
The Baltic Pipe will not decrease total transfer capacity to Britain and Germany, he said, adding that gas delivery destinations will depend on market price between countries.
Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos Editing by Terje Solsvik and Alexander Smith