Norway’s new oil minister has reportedly pledged to remain “very oil-friendly” as she attended the official inauguration of Equinor’s giant, yet controversial, Johan Sverdrup field off Norway on Tuesday.
Progress Party deputy leader Sylvi Listhaug was performing one of her first duties as petroleum & energy minister after taking over the position following the sudden exit of Kjell-Borge Freiberg in late December.
She told regional publication Stavanger Aftenblad that the North Sea field, which was brought online last October, represents “a quantum leap for cleaner production” of oil and gas.
State-controlled operator Equinor has estimated the field will generate “record-low” emissions of about 0.7 kilograms per barrel produced, compared with a global average of around 18 kilograms per barrel
However, start-up of Johan Sverdrup has attracted controversy, with teen climate activist Greta Thunberg criticising the field on Twitter for contributing further to global warming.
The leader of Norway’s Green Party, Une Bastholm, told newswire NTB at the weekend that King Harald, who was originally due to conduct the opening ceremony, “should not be serving to embellish an oil project that is making a massive contribution to the global environmental crisis”.
The king, however, was subsequently unable to attend the event due to “recent strains”, according to the royal palace, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg stepped in to conduct the ceremony.
Lysthaug’s appointment has drawn fire from the environmental lobby as she has previously stated that “every drop of oil” should be exploited and has characterised wind turbines as “white monsters”.
Rather than relenting from this stance, she persisted in the same vein on Tuesday and was quoted as saying she would remain “very oil-friendly” while resisting calls to dismantle the country’s key oil and gas industry.
“We will ensure the world is a greener place by using technology and reducing emissions from the continental shelf,” she said.
Lysthaug also praised as “exciting and ambitious” plans disclosed by Equinor this week to achieve near-zero emissions by 2050, in part by increased electrification from shore of its offshore fields.
She cited the Paris Climate Agreement as stating that it was oil and gas consumers that were responsible for their emissions and it was the role of producers such as Equinor to produce as cleanly as possible, with about 95% of emissions derived from usage of produced fossil fuels.
Listhaug said in her speech at the opening ceremony: “I have spent Christmas reading about oil and gas. It is clear to me that Sverdrup is a very good example that the Norwegian oil policy is working as intended.”
She added it “shows that our climate policy works”.
Her comments came following the reported decision by the head of industry association Norwegian Oil & Gas, Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, to step down, having stated the sector “should be clearer about the fact it is a part of the [climate] problem”.
Oil production from Johan Sverdrup has now increased to more than 300,000 barrels per day towards a targeted plateau rate of 440,000 bpd under phase one that is expected to be reached this summer, increasing to 660,000 bpd under the second phase.
Equinor aims to recover more than 70% of estimated reserves of 2.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent at the field, which is expected to have a producing lifetime of 50 years.
Its chief executive Eldar Saetre said: “Johan Sverdrup offers both high value creation and record-low emissions, making it a future-oriented oilfield and part of the solution for reduced emissions.
“Electrification is an important tool for reaching Norwegian and international climate goals, aiming to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in Norway by 40% by 2030, and close to zero emissions in 2050.”