Western Europe is far from lacking in natural gas. Its gas reserves are much greater than its oil reserves with regard to their energy content, and its gas production covers nearly three-quarters of its own needs, as opposed to only one-third for crude oil. Western European gas reserves are thus an important asset in the security of its energy supplies.

However, most of the increase in European gas reserves over the last fifteen years has come from offshore discoveries, mainly in the North Sea. This zone now contains 60% of the proven reserves and accounts for nearly half of gas production in Western Europe.

This trend will continue in the coming decades, with increasing difficulties in the development and exploitation of new resources, whether due to the water depth or to the increasing distance between consumption regions and recent discoveries. Therefore, the new generation of fields in the North Sea will necessarily call for new technological developments far in advance of the techniques now mastered.

The experience gained during the development of giant fields (Frigg, Troll) together with the studies carried out for the exploitation of marginal fields make up the basis for current research routes, which have been redirected in keeping with the economic situation. In addition to the optimization of proven concepts aiming at greater process integration, new technological developments will aim at both multiphase concepts and subsea implementation. The production of "frontier" gas resources and hence the development of new technologies are the price that Europe will have to pay to limit its dependence on gas imports.

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