Filmed by Richard Milne. Edited by Petros Gioumpasis
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In the middle of the North Sea revival of Norway's oil industry, the biggest in western Europe, is under way. This is the Johan Sverdrup field, the biggest discovery in Norway for three decades. And one which contains 2.7bn barrels of oil and could earn this Scandinavian country $100bn over the next 50 years.
Norway first discovered oil in December 1969. And now 50 years later, one of the biggest oil fields in the North Sea for decades is about to come online. But it's about to produce its first oil at the same time that there is an intense environmental debate about just how long oil can be produced. Could this be the last ever large field in the North Sea?
The four permanent interconnected platforms are currently home to 500 workers. And are expected to account for about a third of Norway's total oil production. Under pressure from environmentalists and politicians, state controlled group Equinor chose to use clean hydro-electricity from land rather than the usual dirtier gas turbines to power the platform.
The start of the Johan Sverdrup, the 5th of October, was a milestone because it represented the past 50 years and also the forward looking 50 years. And Johan Sverdrup will represent a very important part of the oil production on the Norwegian continental shelf going forward from various perspectives. The value perspective is of course, creating NKr900bn to the Norwegian state alone. And also from a climate perspective, where we produce this oil and some gas with a climate footprint of 0.67 kilos per produced barrel, which if you compare to the global average of 18 kilos per barrel, it's pretty climate efficient I would say.
Many of Norway's biggest oil fields are due to stop producing in the coming years. And combined with pressure from environmentalists, some wonder if this field could mark the industry's last big hurrah.
The possibility of finding such a big field as Johan Sverdrup is still there but you know the chances of it is being a slimmer and slimmer as we move along. I think for the NCS it's more about smaller resources. We need to work really hard as an industry, together with our suppliers, to be able to be competitive and extract also those, the smaller reservoir or smaller findings that we might see out here going forward.
Yohan Sverdrup is not only vital for Equinor and its partners, it's also a symbol for Norway and how it's become one of the world's richest countries through oil. But 50 years on from the initial discovery of black gold, the questions about how the industry will get through its next five decades in Norway are growing ever louder.