Danish oil and gas history

Explore some of the most important points of impact in the Danish oil and gas history.

1865 – The Light Men

In the 1800’s people believed that small scary creatures haunted the night in wetlands and swamps. These creatures were referred to as ‘Light Men’.

Later it was discovered that the ‘Light Men’ were in fact burning gas. As a result, the first gas was found on Danish ground I Northern Jutland in 1865.

In 1905 The first real exploration well for gas was drilled and non-commercial gas reservoirs were found.

By 1939 there were 76 approved gas wells in Frederikshavn in Jylland.

1959 – 1965 North Sea Interest

The finding of the huge gas field Groningen in the Netherlands in 1959 indicated the possibilities of hydrocarbons in the North Sea underground.

In 1962 Maersk obtained a 50 year long exclusive right to utilize the resources in the North Sea. The same year Maersk established the Danish Underground Consortium (DUC) together with Gulf and Shell.

In 1965, the current prime minister of Denmark signed the final agreement to divide the North Sea between Norway and Denmark according to the median line, causing Denmark to miss out on the huge and valuable field Ekofisk.

1966 – The First Oil

The first findings of oil in the North Sea were made at what would become the Kraka field. The first drilling took place on September 30, 1966. The result was positive. In the period from 1966 to 1969, DUC performed a total of 9 additional drillings with a success rate higher than 50 %, thus confirming the potential of the North Sea (Source: Hahn-Pedersen, 2016).

1972 – The First Oil Production

In 1971 the DUC partners found the richest oil reserve so far in what would become the Dan field. It was decided to start the Danish oil production on this field. Platforms were built in an area with a water depth of 42 meters, making it necessary to install the platforms with poles that were drilled more than 100 meters into the ocean floor for it to resist the harsh wind and wave conditions.

The Danish oil production was kicked off by Maersk and Prince Henrik on July 4, 1972.

1978 – 1985 The Oil Production Escalates

By 1978 Dan was still the only of the DUC fields in production. However, the period from 1978 to 1985 turned out to be quite eventful for the DUC. In the period they managed to:

- Find six new fields: Regnar, Rolf, Dagmar, Gert, Elly and Harald, which brought them to a total of 11 fields.

- Construct and start the production on the fields Gorm (1981), Skjold (1982), and Tyra (1984)

- Begin the first Danish production of natural gas

- Increase the oil production from 3.2 million barrels of oil to approximately 21.3 million barrels of oil in 1985 (Source: Hahn-Pedersen, 2016)

1985 – Price Crisis in the Oil Industry

In the end of 1985 the OPEC country Saudi Arabia decided to regain market share, after having reduced production for several years in order to keep the high market price up. Production was raised to full capacity and prices were made fluent causing the oil prices to drop significantly.

The very high supply of oil added to a decreasing demand and resulted in prices dropping from around $30 a barrel to just around $10 a barrel.

For the production in the North Sea to stay profitable DUC had to rationalize and figure out more efficient and cheaper ways of production

(Source: Hahn-Pedersen, 2016)

1987 – Horizontal Wells

In 1987, Maersk Oil drilled the first horizontal well, a game changer for the Danish oil production. The horizontal wells were especially suitable for the Danish fields where the oil-bearing layers are narrow and cover large areas. A lot of vertical drills would therefore have been required in order to recover the oil.

The horizontal wells provided a better access to the reservoir and access to more oil and gas. 80% of the DUC oil production would later come from horizontal wells, which also has a production capacity three to six times higher than the traditional wells (Source: Hahn-Pedersen, 2016).

1989 – Water Injection

In 1989 DUC started to inject water into the oil reservoirs at the Dan field in order to maintain the pressure in the reservoirs and at the same time push the oil toward the production wells. Water injection optimizes the recovery of oil by flooding water through most of the reservoir.

Today there are 106 active water injection wells (Source: Danish Energy Agency Annual report, 2013).

1991 – Denmark Becomes Self sufficient

In 1991 the oil production in Denmark exceeded the consumption making Denmark self-sufficient in oil.

(Source: Danish Energy agency Resources and forecasts, 2016).

By 2002, the yearly gas production reached a capacity of 7.3 billion cubic metre increased from 2.7 cubic metre a year in 1990. Within the same period the yearly oil production increased from 46 million barrels of oil a year to 112 million barrels of oil a year.

A huge part of the large increase had to do with expansions and new utilization of the existing technologies.

2014 – Danish Hydrocarbon Research and Technology Centre Opens

As part of a new Danish long-term national strategy on energy production DUC entered into an agreement to finance the Danish Hydrocarbon Research and Technology Centre at the Technical University of Denmark after years of declining production from the North Sea. The center was established with the main purpose to identify new technological and conceptual solutions that can boost the otherwise decreasing oil and gas recovery in the Danish section of the North Sea.

16 MAY 2021