UPDATE 1-Norway's March oil, gas output lag official forecasts

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OSLO, April 20 (Reuters) - Norway’s oil and gas production slightly lagged official expectations in March, preliminary data from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) showed on Tuesday.

Crude oil output fell 1.1% from February to 1.773 million barrels per day (bpd) in March, while the NPD’s forecast for the month had stood at 1.785 million bpd.

Oil output was 3.8% higher than in March of 2020.

Including natural gas liquids (NGL) and condensate, Norway’s overall oil liquids production amounted to 2.09 million bpd in March.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts Norway’s overall liquids production will reach 2.3 million bpd by end-2021, its highest in more than 10 years and above the NPD’s forecast of 2.17 million bpd.

The increase is expected to come partly as a result of rising output from western Europe’s largest oilfield, Johan Sverdrup, as well as the startup of new fields, the IEA has said.

Sverdrup’s daily production is expected to increase to 535,000 bpd by mid-2021, up from around 500,000 bpd at the start of the year, according to operator Equinor.

Norway’s output of natural gas in March totalled 9.81 billion cubic metres (bcm), below the NPD’s forecast of 9.88 bcm and down from 10.72 bcm a year earlier. (Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Terje Solsvik; editing by Jason Neely)