STATOIL, Norway's oil giant, is in talks with BP and Shell over plans to export Norwegian oil through Sullum Voe in Shetland.
The scheme would lengthen the life of the Sullum Voe plant, which has been in operation since 1978 and in which the oil industry has invested millions of pounds. Sullum Voe is owned by a consortium including BP and Shell.
The project is likely to involve the construction of a new pipeline between Norway's Statfjord field and either the Shell Brent field or BP's Ninian field. It would help preserve the Brent blend, which comes from a number of fields in the area and is processed at Sullom Voe, as one of the world's premier oil blends.
There have been fears that Brent as a "marker" blend - a reference point for setting the price of oil around the world - would diminish in importance as production in the fields in the area declines. Brent is said to underpin the position of the UK in the oil marketplace.
Industry analysts say that the project would not only give Statoil access to Brent markets but could prove tax efficient for the Norwegian giant, which is about to be privatised.