By Nerijus Adomaitis
OSLO (Reuters) - An oil workers strike in Norway could cut output by almost a quarter next week, operators said on Thursday, though the union behind the industrial action in western Europe's biggest crude and gas producer said a resolution was possible.
In total, 966,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day were expected to go offline by Oct. 14, the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association (NOG) said, triple the level of outages so far due to the strike over pay and conditions.
The strike has helped lift benchmark Brent crude <LCOc1> above $43 a barrel this week and the prospect of more shutdowns was one of the factors behind a 2.6% jump on oil prices on Thursday, as well as higher gas prices.
Crude oil and natural gas liquids will account for about 70% of the planned cuts with natural gas making up almost 30%, a Reuters calculation based on Norwegian output data showed.
The dispute began on Sept. 30 when wage talks between the Lederne union and NOG collapsed, triggering the first production outages on Oct. 5.
The union wants to match the pay and conditions of workers at onshore remote control rooms with offshore workers, as well as higher wage rises this year than proposed by oil companies.
Norway's government, which can intervene if a strike is considered a national emergency, said it was up to the two sides to resolve their differences.
"Strike is a legitimate measure," The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said in an emailed statement to Reuters, adding that it was monitoring the situation.
The two sides exchanged proposals on Wednesday and will discuss them on Thursday, the Lederne union said.
"I think we have a plan, and it can be solved in two steps," Lederne chief Audun Ingvartsen told Reuters. "We can look into ways how to solve it for the short term, and then we can go back to it later ... There is still time to reach the agreement."
"If there is no deal, of course, we will escalate the strike," Ingvartsen said.
In 2012, the Norwegian government invoked its powers to end an oil industry conflict after 16 days when employers threatened a lockout of workers that would have shut down Norway's entire oil and gas output.
LARGEST FIELD TO SHUT
Six offshore oil and gas fields shut down on Oct. 5 as Lederne ramped up the strike, cutting output capacity by 8%, or about 330,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), NOG said.
U.S. producer ConocoPhillips <COP.N> said on Thursday it would shut its 2/4 B platform, which has daily output of 7,000 boepd and is one of eight offshore facilities at the giant Ekofisk field, on Oct. 10.
Another seven oil and gas fields could be fully or partly shut by Oct. 14, including the Ekofisk platform and Wintershall Dea's Maria oilfield, the industry said.
A water injection platform which helps to sustain well pressure at Ekofisk is also set to close, ConocoPhillips said.
The biggest outage would be at Equinor's <EQNR.OL> Johan Sverdrup oilfield, the North Sea's largest with an output capacity of up to 470,000 barrels per day, which is set to shut on Oct. 14, Equinor said on Wednesday.
The strike is cutting Norwegian gas exports by 35 million cubic metres per day, Refinitiv analysts said in a note.
"The addition of four more fields (Oseberg South, Oseberg East, Ekofisk and Kristin) to industrial action could increase that impact to around 42mcm/d when looking at the recent output of said fields," they said.
The strike would also hit the fourth-quarter earnings of oil companies, with Equinor, Aker BP <AKERBP.OL> and Lundin Energy <LUNE.ST> likely to see reduced income per share of 4%-6% in the case of a 10-day strike, brokerage Sparebank 1 Markets said.
(Additional reporting by Nora Buli, writing by Terje Solsvik; editing by Gwladys Fouche, Jason Neely, Barbara Lewis and David Clarke)