OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's Equinor has breached safety regulations at its long-delayed Martin Linge oil and gas development and must fix the problems before output can begin, an industry regulator said on Tuesday.
Following an audit of control, monitoring and safety systems, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) listed nine deviations from the rules, including in the reliability of detecting gas leaks and in the configuration of alarm systems.
Years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, the North Sea project was due to come on stream in mid-2021.
"Serious breaches of the regulations were identified," the PSA said in a statement.
The regulator said it will require Equinor to deal with the infractions before granting consent to start production.
"Equinor takes note of the PSA report ... We will comply with the order and deliver a plan to close the non-conformities within the deadlines," the company said in an emailed statement.
Originally scheduled for completion in 2016 under its then-operator Total, the project was taken over by Equinor in 2018.
Martin Linge is expected to cost 60.8 billion Norwegian crowns ($7.1 billion), the government said in October, up from an estimate of 56.1 billion a year ago and double the amount foreseen when the project was launched in 2012.[L8N2G539I]
Equinor has described the field's main reservoir as structurally complex, characterised by high pressure and high temperatures compared to many other fields.
The company holds a 70% stake in the field while Norwegian state-owned oil firm Petoro owns the remaining 30%.
Martin Linge is estimated to hold reserves of 256 million barrels of oil equivalents.
($1 = 8.5380 Norwegian crowns)
(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by David Evans)