Basic Norwegian petroleum history

by Arne Osmundsen and Elisabeth Hemnes


In the 1950s there was hardly none believing the bottom of the sea offshore the Norwegian coastline was hiding a treasure of petroleum. However the gas find in Groningen, Holland made people reconsider the potential of the existence of petroleum in the North Sea.


In 1962 Phillips Petroleum applied the Norwegian government for permission to do geological investigations in the sea outside the Norwegian coastline. Later other companies followed to do likewise.


In March 1965 the Norwegian government made an agreement with the British government on how to divide the rights of the North Sea between them. They used a principle sharing right in the middle. In December the same year the Norwegian government carried through a similar agreement with the Danish government.


Petroleum Exploration started in the summer of 1966

The first round of distributing licenses off shore was given the 13. April 1965. Twenty-two licenses for seventy-eight blocks were given to oil-companies or groups of companies. A license gave monopoly for investigation, drilling and recover for the license area. The summer of 1966 the first search well drilled on the Norwegian continental area. The well was dry.


The basic principle for Norwegian petroleum politics from the early seventies was national control, development of a Norwegian oil community and governmental participation. A petroleum directorate was founded to supervise and control oil production. The parliament was to decide where to open new areas, and the government was responsible to decide who would get new licenses.


Foreigners challenged Norway

Non Norwegian companies dominated the search for oil, and they also opened the first petroleum sectors. Foreign companies were meant to be an important partner long term, though it was  important to build a Norwegian petroleum community.


Statoil was the answer

“The government petroleum cooperation”, Statoil was established and along with that a decision that half of all petroleum licenses to be owned by the Norwegian state. Later the Norwegian parliament decided that the participation from the Norwegian state should be considered from case to case, some higher some lower. In 1985 the Norwegian government reorganized the practice of the participation rule.


During the past ten years Norwegian petroleum production has increased at an immense rate, and today Norway is the second largest exporter of raw oil next to Saudi Arabia. The petroleum industry is an important factor of the economy in the country as it gives the state huge income year after year.



Oil and gas discoveries

In 1967 an area later named Balder- field was discovered. In 1969 the Ekofisk-field was discovered, and in the beginning of 1970 it was clear that this field was to become very important. Later the same year several interesting finds were carried through in the same area.


Petroleum production started on Ekofisk in 1971. The petroleum pipe from the North Sea to Teeside was completed in 1975. A pipeline for dry gas from Ekofisk to Emden, Germany was completed in 1977, and opened to transport gas to the continent.


The devices on Ekofisk developed to become a junction for oil- and gas pipelines. In 1971 the Frigg- fields was discovered and production from Frigg started six years later. A pipeline was built to St. Fergus in Scotland. Karmøy was from an early stage considered to be a good place to bring pipes to shore.


In 1974 Statfjord- field was discovered. The petroleum on this field is both on Norwegian and British sector, while the production is done from the Norwegian sector.


The first of three concrete platforms started its production of raw oil in 1979. Operation of Statfjord was the first operator task Statoil had. Autumn 1986 the Norwegian parliament decided to build devices for the gas fields Sleipner East and Troll. The development of Troll is one of the largest energy projects on earth, and is a good illustration that production of gas will get a greater importance of the total petroleum production years to come.


Norwegian Sea

In 1980 the first three production licenses north of Stat, 62 degrees north was given. The first finds of petroleum on Haltenbanken was made in 1981 when the Midgard –field was discovered.


Later even more finds of oil and gas were found. The Draugen field was discovered in autumn 1988, and production started in 1993. Later the fields Heidrun, Njord and Norne have started production.


In 1992 the Norwegian parliament approved to establish a pipeline between the Heidrun-field and Tjeldbergodden, Haltenpipe. The production on Haltenpipe startded in 1995, and associated gas from this field was used to the production of methanol on Tjeldbergodden.


In 1996 the Åsgardfield was approved to be established. In 1997 two major finds were made which verified that the North Sea still had great potential. One of the finds was named Ormen Lange. Preliminary estimates of resources from the Norwegian petroleum directorate  show that Ormen lange is the second largest gas find on Norwegian sector, containing 330 cubic meters equivalents.


The Barents Sea

Since 1980 39 licenses has been given on the Barents Sea. Some of these has shown a number of smaller and medium finds of gas. Snowhite LNG and Goliat are names of two promising projects.


Ekofisk field - the first one

The day before Christmas the first petroleum find was documented by the Norwegian government. This tells us about what technological innovations that were made since then. The Ekofisk- field tells a story about the petroleum nation Norway along with the industry and technology innovation within the country. Ekofisk is a mini Norwegian petroleum history from oil history, from the optimism and the enthusiasm it brought along to the consequences by the Bravo blowout to the tragedy when the Kielland oil rig casualty.

600 billion government kroner has been the contribution after production started. Knowing this it is a curiosity that Phillips wanted to buy themselves off the obligations to drill in the well that gave this find. However the Norwegian government forced them to carry through the programme.