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From service stations to exploration and production

Statoil’s name and former logo, with an orange droplet on a blue background, was a frequent reminder of its presence in everyday Norwegian life for more than two decades. A motorised population could meet their needs to fill both fuel tank and stomach under a literally state-dominated canopy. But it was not given that Statoil would remain a petrol retailer.
By Ole Jone Eide, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
- Service station in Sandnes. Photo: Øyvind Hagen/Equinor

An oil company can potentially become engaged along the whole value chain from exploration, via production, transport, storage, processing and distribution to sales – through service stations, for example.

Exploration and production are often defined as upstream activities, with transport and storage designated as midstream. The subsequent stages – processing, distribution and sales – are then termed downstream. An oil company engaged in every one of these stages can be considered fully integrated.[REMOVE]Fotnote: It can also be described as fully vertically integrated.

Johnsen’s integration

As Statoil’s first CEO, Arve Johnsen’s aim was to achieve such integration. Being involved along the whole value chain seemed to offer benefits which were in the interests of both company and state.

An important aspect of Norwegian petroleum policy was that offshore exploration and production should benefit industrial jobs on land. One example was the use of oil and gas from Norway’s continental shelf (NCS) as petrochemical feedstock, where an important initiative was the creation of a large industrial complex in the Bamble area south-west of Oslo. This would produce a wide range of products based in part on by-products from petroleum refining.

One challenge was that profitability could vary between the various parts of the value chain. The refining stage, for example, had excess capacity for long periods and thereby poor earnings.

A general issue in Norway was how ownership should be organised in areas such as refining, petrochemicals and service station operation. This was resolved on a number of occasions by the Norwegian oil companies – Statoil, Norsk Hydro and Saga Petroleum – agreeing on a collaboration.

Upstream in centre stage

A growing emphasis on international exploration and production emerged under CEO Harald Norvik in the second half of the  1990s.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Boon, Marten, 2022, En nasjonal kjempe. Statoil og Equinor etter 2001. Universitetsforlaget: 119; on the sale of Statoil shipping company Navion, see annual report, 2002, Statoil: 33. (References to annual reports in this text refer to the Norwegian edition of the reports.) While Helge Lund was CEO from 2004, this upstream activity was cultivated seriously. It was thereby also clear that selling out completely from other parts of the value chain, such as petrochemicals and service stations, could become relevant. But opposition to doing this might be substantial. One example is developments in petrochemicals.

When Lund proposed selling the remaining stake in petrochemicals company Borealis, employee representatives on the Statoil board reacted. They pointed to the obligations to help ensure growth in Norway’s mainland industries.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Boon, Marten op.cit: 122-123. However, the CEO’s proposal was approved with the votes of the other directors.

This board decision has been interpreted as a clear indication of how the company, after its partial privatisation in 2001, put capital market interests ahead of more or less clearly defined expectations from politicians and others about which national commitments it should fulfil.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ibid: 123.

Changing the sign at a service station in Ireland. Photo: Leif Berge/Equinor

The reduction in the downstream business continued. Activities related to motor fuels and retailing were transferred in 2010 to a separate company called Statoil Fuel & Retail and listed on the stock market. At the time, this enterprise had 2 283 service stations spread across Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia.[REMOVE]Fotnote:Annual report, 2010, Statoil: 6. In 2012, Statoil Fuel & Retail was sold to Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Annual report, 2012, Statoil: 37.

Statoil’s strategy under Lund gave particular emphasis to growth related to international exploration and production – particularly in North America. An example is the acquisition of Canada’s EnCana.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Boon, Marten, op.cit: 152. This type of choice corresponded to a great extent with general development trends in the oil industry.

Symbolic neighbours

Decisions on prioritisation between upstream, midstream and downstream operations were largely taken at Statoil’s head office in Stavanger. Among its nearest neighbours is one of Norway’s most symbolic service stations. In the early 1990s, it was the first to carry the Statoil livery.

On an April day in 2017, this was also where the last of this signage was removed. That marked the end of a long real, but not least visual, association between frankfurters, pumps and Norway’s biggest petroleum company.

By that time, many years had passed since the service station’s big neighbour had seriously turned its attention towards exploration and production – and eventually also towards a broader energy perspective.


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    With BP/Statoil in Nigeria

    Nigeria was Africa’s largest oil producer and one of the world’s biggest exporters of this commodity, with Angola close on its heels. These two big west-coast petroleum nations were designated as the second big priority area for the Statoil-BP alliance. But war, corruption, intricate licensing systems and domestic opposition did what they could to undermine the commitment.
    By Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
    - One of Nigeria’s many gas metering stations. Photo: Bjørn Rasen

    When their partnership began in 1991, the two companies became involved in the Democratic republic of the Congo as well as Angola and Nigeria, but withdrew from the first of these areas in the same year. A venture in Equatorial Guinea, operated from Nigeria, was also short-lived.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, Helge. (2009). Til siste dråpe. Oslo: Aschehoug: 238.

    Through various engagements, BP was already established in all three west African states when the alliance with Statoil began. However, the military regime in Nigeria had taken over the British oil major’s operations in the country during 1979 as part of a massive nationalisation wave. During the 1990s, the Nigerian mood shifted from nationalisation to internationalisation, and a more open attitude was adopted towards foreign companies. That change in climate created an opening for BP to return to the giant of Africa, this time accompanied by Statoil.

    Repressive regimes, executions and environmental disasters

    Map of Nigeria. Source: Equinor

    Statoil was to be responsible for the alliance’s joint operations in Nigeria, making this country its baptism of fire as an international oil company. A significant proportion of the staff intended to support these activities were located in Stavanger. But a number of BP personnel were included in this Norway-based Nigeria management from the start.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, Helge. (2009). Til siste dråpe. Oslo: Aschehoug: 231

    Operational responsibility for the west African commitment was allocated to BP and its London head office. Only a minimal share of alliance personnel were permanently stationed in Africa. While 23 people, all BP employees, worked with Angola from London, only one was based full-time in Luanda. Thirty staff handled Nigeria in Stavanger, with a single person in the African country itself.

    Nigeria remained an important priority area until the mid-1990s, and activity there expanded. The alliance succeeded with its strategy and established itself as a leading player in the deepwater areas off the Nigerian coast. That position was completely overturned in 1995, when political conditions in Nigeria deteriorated dramatically.

    Ever greater dissatisfaction had spread among many of the people living around the Niger delta. They received little or no share of the big revenues generated by the oil resources in their region. In addition, a massive environmental disaster began to manifest itself in the delta area.

    A coup in 1993 had introduced one of the most brutal and corrupt regimes in Nigeria’s history. The repressive government banned all political activity and opponents were jailed. That in turn unleashed extensive protests across much of the country. These increased from 1995 after the military regime executed nine activists from the oil-rich delta – including author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

    These executions helped to create pressure from international public opinion. Foreign companies faced demands to pull out of Nigeria. The worst-affected was Shell, which had been producing oil for many years from a controversial part of the Nigeria delta. But organised campaigns were also conducted against Statoil in Norway. The company responded that it did not want to become involved in political processes and chose to accept the political burden of remaining in Nigeria. It argued that the human rights position would not improve if it and BP withdrew.

    John Browne from BP, Nigerian politician Jibril Aminu and Statoil’s Harald Norvik in Nigeria. Photo: Leif Berge

    These developments were not particularly concerning for the alliance to begin with. It concentrated on offshore exploration, and was not involved with oil spills and dead fish in the delta. And, in the middle of the unrest on land, the alliance could raise a mighty cheer when oil was proven with its first wildcat – which also represented the first deepwater discovery off Nigeria. But the jubilation was short-lived, since the resources proved non-commercial. At the same time, the political conditions caught up with the partners.

    Statoil had the most to lose by pulling out. Nigeria was where the company intended to demonstrate that it could serve as an operator, even under difficult conditions, outside the North Sea.

    It now transpired that repressive regimes, executions and environmental disasters were not the only problems facing BP and Statoil. The financial difficulties were a more difficult challenge. Nor had the alliance succeeded in securing its own operatorships. And its interests in other fields had also failed to yield sufficient oil to justify the exploration costs. The accounts were looking critical.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ryggvik, Helge. (2009). Til siste dråpe. Oslo: Aschehoug: 233.

    The Agbami oilfield project is one of Nigeria’s largest deepwater developments. Photo: unknown/Offshore Technologies

    No big breakthrough occurred on the exploration side. On 20 April 1998, Statoil and BP signed a contract with Nigerian company Allied Energy on the sale of the alliance’s 40 per cent interest in block 210 – the Oyo oil field. It afterwards transpired that neither Statoil nor BP received the sale price. In addition came a price reduction of about 30 per cent, which many have characterised as incomprehensible.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Keilen, Erlend. (2003. 3. november). E24. Statoil fikk aldri betalt for oljefelt i Nigeria

    An investigation was conducted, and its report concluded in 2004 that: the fact that the statements obtained are ambiguous, combined with the fact that no written documentation exists about the decisions which must have been taken, provides some scope for speculation. On that basis, the investigation committee would recommend to Statoil that it conducts an internal inquiry to clarify the circumstances. The following day, Statoil declared itself not guilty of corruption at a press conference in Oslo.[REMOVE]Fotnote: E24. (2010. 1. mars). NTB. Hemmelig Statoil-gransking av priskutt i Nigeria.

    Although the alliance itself withdrew from Nigeria, Statoil remained on an independent basis and had interests in 2020 in Agbami – the country’s largest deepwater field.

    Chevron is the operator of the field with a 67.30 percent ownership interest and Prime 127 has the remaining 12.49 percent. Equinor also operates two exploration licenses – OML 128 and 129 – with a share of 53.85 per cent in both. Six wells have been drilled in both, with two discoveries made. None of the fields are planned developed.

    On Equinor’s own website, the company describes that its success in Nigeria “is underpinned by our sustainability work, ensuring we are a responsible operator and are proactive in improving opportunities for the communities where we work.”[REMOVE]Fotnote:


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      CCS on Sleipner – back where it came from

      Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is often presented as a means of combating climate change – and has already been under way on Norway’s Sleipner gas field since 1996.
      By Björn Lindberg, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
      - Illustration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at Sleipner. Illustration: Equinor.

      Sleipner West was discovered as early as 1974 with Esso as the operator and declared commercial in 1984. After a plan for development and operation (PDO) was submitted to the government in 1992, it came on stream in 1996. But something had to be done about the high CO2 content in the field’s output in order to meet the specifications in the gas sales contract.

      While natural gas primarily comprises methane (CH4), it also contains varying amounts of undesirable substances such as hydrogen sulphide (H2S), nitrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2). Many fire extinguishers contain pure CO2 because it displaces the oxygen needed to sustain combustion. This is also why a high CO2 content is undesirable in natural gas for use with ovens and the like – it will not burn so well. As a result, gas sales contracts will often specify a maximum quantity of undesirable substances permitted on delivery in order to ensure combustion quality.

      Scrubbed clean and stored

      CO2 pipeline on Sleipner A. Photo: Øyvind Hagen/Equinor

      The gas in Sleipner West comes from 3 450 metres beneath the seabed and contains about nine per cent CO2. That exceeds the ceiling specified in the Troll gas sales agreements, which is 2.5 per cent for this component. As a result, the excess CO2 must be removed before exporting the gas. This is done in two ways – by blending the Sleipner West gas with gas from Sleipner East and other fields with low CO2 content. To further reduce the CO2 content in the exported Sleipner West gas, CO2 is removed from it. This is done by adding amines – organic bases containing a nitrogen atom which bind to the CO2 ­– on the separate Sleipner T gas treatment platform tied back to the concrete Sleipner A installation.

      After being removed from the gas flow, the CO2-rich amines are heated to separate the mix into its component parts again – a process called scrubbing. That allows the amine to be reused and leaves the CO2 to be disposed of. This technology was not off-the-shelf, and had some problems and was costly. Countless modifications had to be made. One favorable factor for Statoil as operator was that the technology used was from the French company Total. Total was also a partner in the license, and hence did not cause much commotion when there was trouble with the technology. [REMOVE]Fotnote: Kyrre Nese in e-mail 8. august 2022.

      CO2 is re-injected

      Since the latter has no commercial value, the simplest – and cheapest – way of dealing with this gas would be to release it to the air. That might have been done on Sleipner West, too, but the introduction of a Norwegian carbon tax for petroleum operations on the NCS meant it would be very expensive. So operator Statoil opted for a different approach, which involved pumping the CO2­ back underground. Since returning the gas to the reservoir of origin would simply increase its content in future production, the geologists had to find somewhere else to put it.

      A number of conditions must be in place for CO2 to be stored in the sub-surface. The relevant formation must have sufficiently porous and permeable rocks, be saturated with saline water, be deep enough (more than 800 metres below sea level) to ensure that the CO2 has the desired properties, have an impermeable cap rock to prevent the gas leaking out, and cover a sufficiently large area with a big enough volume.[REMOVE]Fotnote:

      The Utsira formation, which overlaps the Sleipner reservoirs at a different depth, meets these criteria and represents an ideal location for disposing of CO2. It lies about 800 metres beneath the seabed, while the main Sleipner East reservoir is roughly 1 700 metres further down.

      Using a single well drilled from the concrete Sleipner A platform, an annual injection rate of about a million tonnes means some 20 million tonnes of CO2 have been deposited in the Utsira formation since 1996.

      Regular investigations of the sub-surface have been conducted using seismic surveying to ensure that no CO2 is leaking from the structure to the seabed. These studies show that the injected gas is occupying an ever-expanding area of the formation and that no threat of leaks exists.

      CO2 injection from Sleipner West was a pioneering project on the NCS and has been a success. Since 2019, CO2 from Utgard – which comprises no less than 16 per cent of this field’s output – has also been separated out on Sleipner T and injected into the Utsira formation.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Annual report Utgard 2019, AU-UTG-00002, Equinor.

      The Snøhvit gas produced in Norway’s Barents Sea sector contains five-eight per cent CO2. This is separated out in the same way as on Sleipner, but at the Melkøya processing plant on land rather than on an offshore platform. Separated CO2 is piped back to the field in a compressed liquid phase and injected into the subsurface. Although injection problems have arisen, studies indicate that no gas is leaking out. A similar CCS process was pursued on the Salah gas field in Algeria, but terminated in 2011 because of capacity limitations in the geological structures.[REMOVE]Fotnote: and 

      CCS on Sleipner has been under way longer than any comparable project, and the data and experience this has yielded will be important for future schemes of this kind. In 2019, Equinor and its partners in the field released information on CO2 injection and monitoring as a contribution to innovation for and development of storing greenhouse gases.[REMOVE]Fotnote:


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        Misunderstandings with a smile

        Many groups, both Norwegian and foreign, visited Statoil in the 1970s. The company welcomed 700 guests in the first half of 1977 alone. But some meetings yielded unintended culture clashes.
        By Håkon Lavik, retired Statoil
        - Chinese visit at Statoil. Photo: Leif Berge/Equinor

        Frugal style

        The head of the American Petroleum Institute (API) – which represents the whole US oil and gas sector – visited Statoil in 1975. CEO Arve Johnsen was host to this highly influential executive, and provided a briefing on Statoil’s business. That included explaining how it was becoming an interesting oil seller. One point raised by the API president was whether Norway had ambitions to join the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – Opec. Johnsen could affirm that it did not.

        Following their meeting, the pair strolled over the road to the KNA Hotel in Stavanger for lunch. Johnsen asked his guest whether he would like something to drink with his food. The American smiled broadly, and perhaps expected a glass of wine. His surprise can be imagined when the frugal Norwegian went on: “How about a glass of milk?” Without any change of expression, the API man expressed his thanks and drank milk in good Norwegian style together with Johnsen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Related by Håkon Lavik, former information office at Statoil, 2 July 2020.

        Formal versus informal

        International banks were queuing up in 1976-77 to lend Statoil money for its share of the Statfjord development. A Japanese bank delegation announced it was arriving in Stavanger on a Sunday evening and requested a meeting with Statoil’s finance team. This encounter was scheduled for Monday morning at 08.30. Information officer Håkon Lavik was assigned to fetch the visitors from the city’s best hotel – the Atlantic – at 08.00.

        He met four vice presidents, very correctly dressed in pin-stripe suits and ties. They insisted on leaving at once to avoid being late. A taxi was ordered and the group arrived at about 08.15 at Statoil’s international department, which was then based at Flintgaten 2 in the Hillevåg district.

        The only Norwegian present then who was due to attend the meeting was Jørn Larsen, a burly type from the Jæren farming district south of Stavanger wearing jeans and a pullover.

        Tor Espedal, the chief financial officer, arrived soon afterwards. He always started his working day with a swim and still had wet hair, as well as being sweaty and open-collared (his tie was in his pocket) after cycling to the office.

        Then came a very correctly dressed Eivind Brekkelund, an economist, followed by Jan Erik Langangen – a later Statoil chair – in jogging gear. His suit was in the changing room.

        Jan Erik Langangen running the Holmenkoll relay. Photo: Equinor

        Svein Andersen, head of the company’s internal audit function, turned up next. He was also on a bike, wearing trainers and an anorak.

        Finally came Thor Inge Willumsen, later Statoil’s CFO, in a pullover and without a tie, and munching on a carrot which marked the end of his breakfast.

        Only a few minutes passed before everyone was ready for the meeting, and Statoil was loaned billions of kroner. But the Japanese visitors were undoubtedly taken a little aback at Norwegian culture of informality.

        Despite their relaxed style, the Statoil team was no gang of small fry. All those mentioned later become senior vice presidents in Statoil, while Brekkelund went to Mobil and then to Shell.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ibid.

        Anti-aircraft guns on Statfjord

        The Statoil management received an important visit from the Supreme Soviet one September day in 1976. After the conventional introductions by chair Finn Lied and CEO Johnsen, the latter gave a briefing on the company’s operations. That included a review of the current construction of the Statfjord A platform, with particular emphasis on building concrete gravity base structures. This was long before the computer age, and engineers commissioned detailed models of such installations to help their design work.

        The model of Statfjord A stood in the corridor outside the meeting room in Lagårdsveien 78, which functioned as Statoil’s head office at the time. During the presentation, with associated slides, a discussion began with and between the visitors about whether the Soviet Union had any such structures. The delegation claimed it had, and even some that were larger.

        Representatives from the Soviet Union, on a visit to Statoil, gathered around a model of Statfjord Phase I. Photo: Equinor

        After the meeting, the group assembled around the model. This was very detailed, and visitors noticed that water monitors were installed around and about the topsides in case of fire. But the Soviet delegates through they were anti-aircraft guns – because that was something they really knew about. From their perspective, this felt to be was essential. Fire-fighting was an unnecessary precaution. The visitors were otherwise very grateful for Statoil’s openness, which they much appreciated. It only emerged later how distinguished this visit had been.

        When the next session of the Supreme Soviet opened a few weeks later, and the event was shown on the TV news, three of the delegates were seen seated in the first row on the podium. They were immediately behind Communist Party head Leonid Brezhnev, who gave the opening speech. The visitors had been really top politicians with great influence in the Soviet Union.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ibid.


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          First daughter

          An international commitment had long been a dream at Statoil, and the office doors finally opened in the spring of 1983 at the company’s first foreign subsidiary – Statoil Netherlands BV in the Hague. Two Norwegians and a Dutch secretary moved in.
          By Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
          - The four employees of Statoil Nederland B.V. photographed on the opening day of their new office. From left: CEO Kjell Helle, technical manager Øivind Reinertsen, secretary Carla Kraagenbrink and finance manager Johan M Andersen. Photo: Leif Berge/Equinor

          Statoil was not unfamiliar with the Dutch continental shelf. It had interests in two licences inherited from the Norwegian government after the Storting (parliament) gave its blessing for the company to exercise the state’s option for them in 1982 – with the rights and obligations that this involved.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Proposition no 102 (1981-1982) to the Storting, Om utøvelse av Statoils opsjon til å delta i lisensen K/18-L/16 på nederlandsk kontinentalsokkel m.m.

          The assumption was that all revenues generated within the licences were to be transferred to Norway. In addition, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy felt it was appropriate for Statoil to establish a dedicated subsidiary if the options were exercised.

          As a result, the Dutch sector of the North Sea became the first of many foreign continental shelves where Statoil made a commitment. But the international dream there proved relatively short-lived. After eight years, the company sold off everything and left the country.

          Acquiring the licences

          The Norwegian government secured access as early as 1970 to four licences on the Dutch continental shelf as the result of a swop deal involving Norwegian Gulf Oil Company. When the latter was allowed to transfer its rights in two blocks off Norway to Norske Conoco, one of the conditions was that Conoco’s then US parent, Continental Oil Company, would give the Norwegian state a right to at least 10 per cent in a Conoco licence in a country other than Norway.[REMOVE]Fotnote: The two blocks in the Norwegian North Sea represented two-thirds of production licences 019 (Ula and Gyda) and 020.

          The result was that the state acquired 10 per cent of the Continental Netherlands Oil Company (ConNed) holdings in blocks F/7, F/9, K/18 and L/16 in the Dutch sector, which amounted to 7.5 per cent of this acreage.

          Statoil’s first licence in the Netherlands. Source: Equinor

          These blocks were transferred in 1973 to Statoil along with other agreements on state participation which the government had secured at that point.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Proposition no 78 (1972-1973) to the Storting, Utøvelse av statens opsjon på deltakelse i utvinningstillatelse for petroleum (Frigg-feltet), og overføring til Den norske stats oljeselskap A/S av avtaler om statsdeltakelse i utvinningstillatelser m.v.

          The decision to transfer all such agreements left the company with options for four Dutch blocks.

          Several of the prospects were later assessed by operator Conoco as uninteresting, with F/7 and F/9 as well as half the acreage in K/18 and L/16 being relinquished to the Dutch government.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Proposition no 102, op.cit.

          Oil discovered in the remaining area of K/18 in 1980 was declared commercial the following year. Under the agreement originally entered into with the Norwegian state, Statoil then had seven months to decide whether to exercise its option.

          While the company was free to decide that it wanted to pull out, any decision on participating in development and operation would be taken by the Storting. When the matter came up for debate there in June 1982, there was no discussion – Statoil was to participate for the first time in oil production on another country’s continental shelf.

          With a green light from the Storting, the company opted to participate in developing K/18 in accordance with the plans drawn up by Conoco.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Annual report and accounts 1982, Den norske stats oljeselskap a.s, Stavanger.


          Opening the Statoil Netherlands BV office in The Hague. From left: Petter Graver, Norwegian ambassador to the Netherlands, Jakob Eri, chair of the company and Statoil’s vice president operations, Kjell Helle, the CEO, and Harry van Ulzen from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

          In line with the Storting’s wishes, Statoil established a subsidiary and permanent office in the Netherlands. It also regarded the model of a wholly owned daughter company as the most appropriate way to organise foreign operations.

          The advantage of this approach was that subsidiaries abroad could draw on parent company expertise in a flexible and straightforward manner. They were charged for such services at the hourly rates normally applied between oil companies.

          Since these foreign arms were Statoil’s own limited companies, they had to comply with the laws of the country they operated in. That in turn meant they had to keep full accounts for their own activities, which had to be confirmed and approved by auditors in the subsidiary’s own country and in Statoil.

          K/18, or the Kotter field, came on stream on 22 September 1984, and Statoil began earning revenues from a foreign engagement for the first time. Production from the Logger field in L/16 began a year later.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Status, Statoil house journal, no 8, 1985, “Logger-feltet i produksjon”.

          Looking for more

          Statoil was keen to participate when new blocks were put on offer in the Dutch sector during 1984. Its board raised the issue of such involvement with the general meeting (the minister of petroleum and energy). Statoil’s preference was to be an operator.

          The Dutch authorities had an express desire to develop collaboration with Norway in the oil sector in order to reduce the influence of the big multinational companies.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Status, Statoil house journal, no 16, 1984, “Operatøroppgave i Nederland?”.

          Statoil applied for the operatorship of three blocks in this fifth licensing round, and reinforced staffing at the Dutch subsidiary by eight people.

          The company secured 60 per cent of block F/14a. According to the Dutch government, it had the best geological interpretation and a good work programme. An award to Statoil would also fit well in a broader energy-policy context. To judge from the number of applications, the blocks sought by the company were the best in the round.

          Drilled by American jack-up Zapata Scotian, the initial wildcat on F/14a was Statoil’s first well as operator outside Norwegian waters and was spudded on 8 August 1986.

          Drilling personnel in the Netherlands make direct contact with the “black gold”. From left: Øivind Gulli, Ivar Holm, Oddbjørg Greiner, Øivind Reinertsen, John Self, Rolf Dirdal and Kjell Helle.

          Oil was encountered in the licence,[REMOVE]Fotnote: Status, Statoil house journal, no 10, 1986, “Oljefunn på nederlandsk sokkel”. but not much. Small oil deposits were also discovered in the neighbouring block, along with gas assumed to be commercial. F/14a proved a disappointment, since the oil found was much less than the company had hoped for.

          Statoil nevertheless did not give up, and applied for further licences – securing three operatorships in 1987 and two more in 1989. That meant the company had six operatorships plus participation in the producing Kotter and Logger fields.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Status, Statoil house journal, no 19, 1989.

          An end and a new beginning

          While Statoil was celebrating its 20th anniversary in 1992, its Dutch involvement terminated. The company sold its remaining exploration licences and the subsidiary there.

          It wanted to concentrate its international involvement by making a full commitment to the collaboration project with BP in the former Soviet Union, south-east Asia and west Africa.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad, 8 April 1993 “Statoil selger i Nederland”.


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