Norwegian oil minister hopes to strengthen ties to Houston

Ola Morten Moe has been the minister of petroleum and energy for Norway since 2011. Norway has one of the largest national delegations at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference, with more than 2,000 attendees, led by Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. He sat down for interview with FuelFix at the Offshore Technology Conference on Monday:

FuelFix: This is your first Offshore Technology Conference. What are your impressions and your plans for your time here?

Moe: The size of the conference is impressive – I am hoping to both see and feel what is going on at the exhibits. It is going to be very interesting to walk around. It is also an excellent meeting place – we have meetings with several companies here in Houston.

Houston currently has more than 10,000 Norwegians living here – there is no other place where you can find so many Norwegian outside of Norway. If you go back to the 19th century, a third of the Norwegian population left and emigrated to the United States. I think that the US has always had a great impact on the Norwegian society – what is going on here is a continuation of that story – a very close and tight relationship.

FuelFix: How do you see the Norwegian oil and gas company looking in 10 years, as reservoirs continue to decline in the North Sea?

Moe: I think we will see two things: we will experience some growth as a result of increased interest and activity on the Continental Shelf, that will help us maintain our production level. This will be a result of extensive activities in existing fields and opening up new areas. The regional oil and gas industry is committed to being part of global and international community. I think you will see rich opportunities in Norway. You will see a heavy presence from Norwegian internationally and more stories of big companies supply running activities in Norway, which is good.

FuelFix: There has been a lot of focus on the decision to raise taxes on oil and gas companies in Norway. The Norwegian government has explained that this is being done to avoid cost overruns – what would this mean to US companies operating in Norway?

Moe: The recent tax increase has been an adjustment to the tax system. – this reflects that the last time we adjusted the system was in 2005 and since then, interest rats have been going down. Ongoing projects will not be affected. For new projects, these rules will apply. i don’t think this will have a huge impact – it will be a slightly bigger incentive to keep control on projects.

FuelFix: There has been a lot of technology exchange between Norway and US – companies like FMC and National Oilwell Varco having a sizable presence in Norway. What is the government doing to encourage companies to operate in Norway?

It was the Americans and Phillips who first discovered oil in Norway on Christmas Eve in 1969. Since that time, we have depended heavily on the presence of international oil companies. They are not only still around, they are investing quite heavily. It has been an important part of the Norwegian success story – the fact that we have been able to learn and then to use the Norwegian Continental Shelf and the activity to build our own businesses and technology. Today we are able to export that technology all over the world. What you see today is a mark of that. If you look at the numbers, energy is the single most important source of income or GDP – it represents more than half of our exports, and the second most important is the technology and the supply industries.

FuelFix: Norway has become renown for its offshore technology. What has contributed to such rapid growth and innovation?

We have a tax system that encourages companies to invest in research and development. You also find cooperation between companies and the supply industry. Generally speaking, Norway is a high-cost environment. If you are going to succeed as a supplier, you are going to need to be in a part of the value chain that adds a lot of value. Over the past few decades, an increasing part of the supply industry are specializing and taking positions on the (Norwegian Continental) Shelf and globally that are cutting-edge and add a lot of value.

It is fair to say that many of the most important technology developments are being made as full scale projects are being built. Sometimes the companies are able to use these practical technology solutions to test out new ways of doing business.