Participation on the global upstream petroleum arena has become increasingly important to the Norwegian oil and gas industry. It provides opportunities beyond those offered by Norwegian resources, and is a market with virtually no limits.
Norwegian oil companies have built a substantial international portfolio during the past decade. Both Statoil and Hydro have positioned themselves and to a certain extent have broken through in areas that are both attractive and of strategic importance. This includes offshore fields off the coast of West Africa and key projects in the Middle East. Norwegian companies are collaborating with leading global actors in these areas. Norwegian suppliers of services and goods conduct a significant portion of their business internationally, either directly from Norway or through foreign offices.
The North Sea has long been among the world's leading offshore provinces. Norwegian companies are unquestionably among the largest operators in terms of construction and production volume at sea. Statoil and Hydro's willingness to innovate and their courage in terms of adopting new technology and new solutions is well known. Examples of cutting-edge technology that was first adopted by Norwegian companies include horizontal drilling, 3D seismology, and floater and subsea technology.
This culture has fostered some of the most important offshore technology environments. At present, three of the world's four pioneering subsea technology companies are Norwegian. Factors such as these have led to the Norwegian commitment to TotalFinaElf's deep-water project off the coast of West Africa representing a substantial 30 percent. This is also an illustration of the fact that the presence of foreign companies on the Norwegian continental shelf and cooperation with Norwegian companies in Norway has contributed greatly to the international application of Norwegian technology.
In many ways, the North Sea has been a laboratory for developing first-rate technology - a function we believe that this offshore province will continue to serve. It is our mission that the Norwegian continental shelf and petroleum industry offer world-class competence. In other words, we want to be the most innovative offshore province in the world. Proximity to local markets and focus on improved oil recovery (IOR) technology and cost reductions will contribute to our achieving this.
Ever since petroleum activity was initiated on the Norwegian continental shelf over 30 years ago, one of the authorities' key goals has been to ensure that this activity be run in coexistence with other industries and environmental interests. A carefully constructed management body and a regulatory framework ensure that every phase of petroleum activity takes environmental and fishery issues into consideration, from exploration to operation, to conclusion and closure of facilities.
From an international perspective, the Norwegian continental shelf is clearly at the forefront, in using environmentally-friendly technology and making its operations more efficient. This does not mean that there is no room for improvement. Both the authorities and the industry need to maintain a constant focus on the environment; not least in terms of new challenges related to vulnerable areas and areas that are close to the coast.
Norwegian companies have always been characterized by having a strong focus on the health, environment and safety (HES) of employees in the petroleum industry. Meeting HES goals is a basic element of the petroleum industry, and should be given high priority, regardless of the company or place where activities are conducted.
Minister of Petroleum and Energy