Innovation on the Norwegian continental shelf

The discovery of North Sea oil in 1969 led rapidly to Norway’s transformation into the global oil power that it is today. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate evaluated the production during 2007 of 237.8 million standard cubic metres (Sm³) marketable oil equivalents (o.e.). But with this success comes responsibility. “Norway’s regulatory framework is aimed at protecting the environment and producing and transporting oil and gas in a safe and reliable manner,” Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre told the EPC Policy Briefing in Brussels, “It has spurred technological innovation and helped make the Norwegian Continental Shelf the most energy-efficient producing region in the world.”

 This creative context is the background for the Norwegian oil industry, from the global giants like Statoil to producers and designers of the smallest components that have a place in reducing emissions and making the industry more responsible.

StatoilHydro – a Giant with a Conscience
StatoilHydro, the largest offshore oil and gas company in the world, has been at the forefront of CO2 capture and storage – an important and topical international environmental issue. At StatoilHydro’s Mongstad refinery, a power project is being developed in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy that would become one of the world’s biggest facilities for CO2 capture and storage. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is aware of the implications. “With this project we are writing industrial and environmental history,” he says. “We are going to build the world's largest carbon capture facility in connection with the combined heat and power plant at Mongstad. At the same time we will secure and increase the power production for the Norwegian market.” This duel motivation – consideration for the environment on one hand and increased production on the other – is one good reason why the industry in Norway is so creative. They are not mutually exclusive outcomes.

 

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StatoilHydro is already regarded as a leader for offshore carbon storage in sub-surface aquifers through its projects on Sleipner East and Snøhvit. The technology used represents something of a solution to a knotty problem: energy production can damage the environment, and CO2 is one of the main culprits. Yet effective carbon capture and usage in the boosting of oil recovery from mature fields is clearly a way of turning the situation around, improving efficiency and production and reducing emissions simultaneously. That is the aim at Mongstad. CO2 disposal – one of the collaborative Halten CO2 Project aims – is also one of StatoilHydro’s most prescient priorities.

Other StatoilHydro objectives include research into the reduction of excess water production in wells, plants for the removal of sulphur from fuel, and the usage of low-NOx turbines.

 

StatoilHydro, a true global giant, is working hard to make sure that its massive output of oil and gas does not come at unnecessary cost to the environment.
© Øyvind Hagen/StatoilHydro

 

The Niche Companies – Starting Small to Effect Big Environmental Changes
AllMaritim AS has over twenty years of experience in the marketing of oil-spill response products across the world. As an associate of NOFI Tromsø AS, AllMaritim has exported over 100,000 oil booms on every continent, and 100 Fully Integrated Oil Containment Systems for open-ocean, high seas oil recovery.

Amongst its products are NOFI inflatable oil barges, designed for the temporary storage of recovered oil. AllMaritim believe that a lack of effective infrastructure during oil-spill scenarios results in waste and harm to the environment. The barges are a simple and relatively cost-effective way of solving that problem. AllMaritim also presents the Noren Skimmer System, including a unique floating hose with “replaceable internals”, built to facilitate the fast and effective transfer of recovered oil. AllMaritim’s stated vision is simple, practical and specific: to be a “supplier of environmental products that make a difference.” It is a vision that neatly sums up the achievements of an industry that innovates to protect the environment, one scenario at a time.

Another company working within the area of oil-spill response is MIROS AS. Although primarily focussed on wave monitoring and remote sensing, MIROS have also developed an oil spill detection (OSD) system using advanced image processing algorithms to detect oil spills as early as possible. One of the most important innovations specific to the MIROS system is the ability to track and detect oil spills in complete darkness. In the race against time to prevent pollution after an oil spill, those priceless extra hours can make a huge difference. “Accurate data on position, area and movement of oil on the sea surface is paramount in ensuring that mechanical oil recovery equipment, or chemical dispersant spraying equipment, stays within areas of combatable oil thicknesses at any given time,” explains a joint document written by Catherine Egset and Elisabeth Nøst from MIROS’ R&D department for Sea Technology Magazine (April 2007). Together, these Norwegian companies look like increasing the success of damage limitation and recovery during these potentially hazardous environmental situations.

 

Carbon storage at Sleipner is a shining example of how the oil and gas industry in Norway is working to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
© Alligator Film Bug/StatoilHydro

 

This seemingly endless catalogue of innovative environmental products for the oil and gas industries put Norway in a powerful position internationally, not just as a producer, but also as research leader. Amongst the pioneering research currently being carried out by Norwegian companies are waste gas treatment and recovery (Aibel AS and Propure AS), oil recovery accessories and equipment (Aker Kværner ASA and MIROS AS), and wastewater disposal (Aibel AS, Propure AS and Hamworthy.) These companies are taking the responsibilities that come with Norway’s production goals seriously, and providing the industry with the tools it needs to overcome its inevitable environmental impact.
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