Aker BP said it will become the first oil company in Norway to control operations of a permanently manned offshore platform from land from next year.
Operating platforms remotely can be done with fewer staff than doing it offshore and other oil companies are also looking to do so to reduce production costs.
Aker BP said Norway's oil safety watchdog on Wednesday approved the company's plans to switch controls at its Ivar Aasen oilfield in the North Sea.
"It will be the first manned platform in Norway to be controlled from onshore," Aker BP's spokesman Ole-Johan Faret said in an email to Reuters.
Norway's largest oil and gas firm Equinor started remote operations of is Valemon field last year, but that platform only has workers on board periodically.
Around 70 people work on Aker BP's Ivar Aasen platform, 175 km (108 miles) off Norway's west coast, including four control room operators.
Aker BP said it expected to complete the switch of controls in the second quarter of 2019, and even after that it would keep some trained people on the platform who could take controls back if needed.
"It's a learning curve for us, so we will do that gradually to ensure safety," Faret said.
"Moving the control room onshore is a key part of Aker BP's digitalization and improvement agenda," Faret said.
More generally, Aker BP is pushing ahead in digitizing its assets and operations. Two years ago its top shareholder, Aker, set up software firm Cognite to do so because it could not find a suitable one.
Cognite is now creating digital maps of Aker BP's oil industry assets, integrating data from equipment such as pumps, heat and pressure sensors, maintenance records and even staff rotas to improve efficiency and safety.
Sweden's Lundin Petroleum, Aker BP's partner in Ivar Aasen, has signed up to use the platform created by Cognite to share operational data from its installations offshore Norway.
Last month, Equinor also started production at its Oseberg H platform, the first remotely operated fully unmanned wellhead platform on the Norwegian continental shelf.
A spokeswoman for Norway's oil safety watchdog said Equinor's Martin Linge oil platform, scheduled to start in 2020, will be another remotely controlled platform offshore Norway.
Equinor executives have previously said they expected future installations to be lighter, unmanned, robotized and remotely operated to keep development costs low.
(Editing by Susan Fenton)
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