What oil slump? Norway wants greater role in N.L.'s offshore

An invasion of St. John's by Norwegian political and business leaders this week is a sure sign that Newfoundland and Labrador's fortunes in the oil and gas industry are very bright, say insiders.

Dignitaries, companies from Scandinavian country invade St. John's for oil and gas seminar

Tord Lien, Norway's minister of petroleum and energy, was in St. John's Thursday to address an oil and gas seminar and promote his country's supply and service sector to the Newfoundland and Labrador oil and gas industry. (CBC)

An invasion of St. John's by Norwegian political and business leaders this week is a sure sign that Newfoundland and Labrador's fortunes in the oil and gas industry are very bright despite the current downturn, say insiders.

"It shows they see us as one of the next petroleum provinces. So despite some of the gloom and doom of recent days, I think what this shows is that our potential is bright and we're a market the Norwegians are very, very focused on," said Bob Cadigan, president and CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, or NOIA.

INSTOK is an association representing many of the 2,500 companies that supply and service Norway's offshore sector, which is more than three times the number represented by NOIA.

It hosted a seminar Thursday in order to pitch the benefits of partnering with companies from the Scandinavian country to business leaders from this province.

Newfoundland and Labrador Deputy Premier Steve Kent spoke about the future of the oil and gas industry during a seminar in St. John's Thursday, Sept. 17. (CBC)

The delegation included leaders from the Norwegian government, and representatives from many of the country's top oil and gas supply and service companies who specialize in areas such as oil field life extension, which is a hot topic.

The seminar took place under a cloud of uncertainty as the industry endures a prolonged slump in oil prices, with many companies around the world curtailing spending, slashing jobs and slowing exploration efforts.

But those attending the seminar say the current downturn is just a temporary hurdle, and they are keen to be ready when the industry rebounds.

"I believe that Norwegian companies, teaming up with Canadian partners, will bring out the best from both sides of the Atlantic, to the benefit of the companies as well as the local communities," Tord Lien, Norway's minister of petroleum and energy, said to the roughly 120 delegates Thursday morning.

50 years of oil production, expertise in Norway

Norway has been producing oil from its continental shelf for a half-century, and Norwegian companies have emerged as world leaders when it comes to working in harsh and environmentally sensitives areas.

Norway is also leading the way in terms of oil recovery rates, at about 50 per cent, which is well above the world average.

A giant oil field now under development off Norway is aiming for a 70-per cent recovery rate, and that's causing quite a lot of buzz in Newfoundland's offshore where there are three producing oil fields, and a fourth set to begin production in about two years.

"These are areas of interest and impact to our region," said Steve Kent, Newfoundland and Labrador's deputy premier.

And like Newfoundland and Labrador, the oil industry is the backbone of Norway's economy.

Several companies from the tiny Nordic country of just five million residents have played a leading role in this province's oil industry.

Kvaerner, for example, is partnering with Peter Kiewit on the design, procurement, construction and installation of the Hebron gravity based structure.

And Statoil is active in the Flemish Pass Basin, having discovered the promising Bay du Nord find two years ago.

Kent said there are many reasons to be optimistic about the long-term future.

"The future is incredibly bright for the oil and gas industry," said Kent, adding that "we are proud of the partnerships we have built with Norway."

Construction of the Hebron oil platform at Bull Arm is being led by a partnership that includes Norwegian company Kvaerner. (CBC)

About the Author

Terry Roberts

CBC News

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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