Gas and politics

Troll-gas and the cold war

By: Arne Osmundsen and Elisabeth Hemnes, translator



When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981 the Soviet Union was the only supplier of gas to Europe. It was believed that in an eventual situation of crisis the Soviet Union could force Europe on its knees. To prevent this Ronald Reagan wanted western Europe to produce gas. In addition it was common to believe this would undermine the economy of the Soviet Union. The economy of the Soviet Union received two thirds of its income from sales of gas and oil. This was a cold war.


Troll field's biggest gas field in North Sea

The Troll- field was discovered by Shell and appeared to become the largest gas field in the North Sea. For the US government Troll became a strategically important gas field. For Norway it was a technological and financial challenge. First the Norwegian petroleum company Statoil had to find gas customers. One of the most important gas contracts the world had seen was signed. Countries in western Europe were committed to buy gas from Troll forty years ahead. The moment this contract was signed was therefore a historical event.


The Troll platform is a giant - 360 meters high

Now a united Norwegian engineering knowledge group was to see its largest challenge since the large waterpower systems had been developed in the early twentieth century. The result of their research was building platforms based on concrete and steel. The Troll platform turned out as a 370 meter tall concrete colossus with a steel deck. Its total height was 500 meters (Taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.) It was finished in May 1995. It was to be towed out from Yrkesfjorden, east of Haugesund, where it had been constructed. It was the largest building man had ever transported. After six days and nights the tugboats towing the platform reached the destination site. This happened on the National Day of Norway, May 17.


Pipe Systems

A perhaps equal engineering challenge was to build a pipeline system to transport gas to its customers. Eventually a 9000 km set of pipes was installed on the bottom of the sea to deliver gas to the European continent. Today this technology has made great progress in matters of production. Today smaller mobile installation devices are used instead of gigantic platforms like Troll. These can be controlled by remote controls from land, not offshore.

The pipeline system from the western part of Norway is the gas supplier to Europe. The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 caused by a messed up economy. Today Russia is a large gas supplier, but fortunately not the only one on this market.

In our project we will start with Troll. We will study how the gas is produced, the transportation of it and how it is refined before it reaches the customers on the continent. Next we will look at the use of gas as source of energy in private homes, at power plants and in industry.


Source: NRK “Olje” Jan. 25. 2009