Norwegian pipeline operator Gassco may extend its offshore pipeline network to reach potential gas fields in the Barents Sea.
"We are looking at the whole Barents Sea area on the Norwegian side," Gassco spokesman Kjell Varlo Larsen said ahead of a conference on petroleum development in northern waters.
"It will be based on (gas) discoveries that are already made but also on the future outlook."
Gassco's pipelines supply a fifth of European gas needs, criss-crossing the North Sea and Norwegian Sea but stopping about halfway up Norway's rugged west coast, off Trondheim.
As oil companies look to the Arctic frontier to replace declining fields off southern Norway, Gassco wants to find the best way to extend a trunk line north and then east some 1,400km into the central Barents Sea, where Norway and Russia have agreed on a boundary.
"We don't have any geographical limitations," Larsen said, adding that the study would consider the possible need for new or expanded gas processing facilities ashore in the far north.
Earlier this month, he said, Gassco completed a separate study commissioned by Norway's Statoil of a potential pipeline linking its pioneering Snoehvit field in the Barents to the Heidrun complex at the north end of today's Aasgaard Transport pipeline.
He said Statoil wanted to compare the cost and utility of transporting future Snoehvit gas south by pipeline instead of expanding a plant near Hammerfest that now compresses natural gas from the field into liquid for ship transport.
"We handed that (study) over to Statoil earlier in August, and we have agreed that they are the responsible party to comment on its contents," said Larsen.
Snoehvit was Norway's first operative gas field in the Barents.
In the larger study, Larsen said, Gassco will also consider potential upgrades to southern pipelines and facilities to prevent bottlenecks in case of large future gas volumes from the Barents.
He said results from the wide-ranging pipeline study would probably be published this winter.
He said Gassco, a state-owned company that manages Norway's offshore infrastructure, undertook the study on its own initiative in cooperation with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.
A Statoil spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.