Stavanger’s oil adventure began in 1969 with the fateful discovery of oil in the southern North Sea field Ekofisk. Since then, the town has transformed from an industrial trading town with a rich agricultural hinterland into Norway’s undisputed petroleum capital with in excess of 300,000 inhabitants in the greater suburban area. The oil and gas industry accounts for the majority of business in Stavanger with more than 45,000 energy employees and half of all energy-based jobs in Norway.
The world’s leading petroleum companies, such as Exxon Mobil – the proud recipient of the first license on the Norwegian sector of the North Sea – as well as BP, Conoco Philips and many others, are all here together with a growing group of international energy companies. StatoilHydro, the Norwegian oil giant based in Stavanger, is one of the main employers in the region.
The area has attracted 280 oil service companies working in all parts of the exploration and production value chain. All told, there are nearly 50 energy companies working with various aspects of energy production. Stavanger is also home to many petroleum-related government bodies, such as the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, Petroleum Safety Authority, Petoro, and academic institutions like the University of Stavanger and the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS).
Oil Goes Green
Every other August, the town hosts the widely popular international oil and gas conference Offshore Northern Seas (ONS), which is the second largest industry event worldwide after the annual Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. Last year, ONS premiered a separate environmental showcase called Renewable Energy Park for the first time in its history. The new section of the exhibition expanded the horizons of the traditional oil event by focusing on the enormous potential and opportunities of the renewable energy sector and highlights the increased emphasis on greener technology among the oil players.
StatoilHydro is a prime example of the shift. The company has widened its energy business to include renewable energy like wind, wave and tidal energy and renewable fuels like bio-fuel and hydrogen. The company owns the world’s most northern wind farm, Havøygavlen in Finnmark. On the island Utsira, north-west of Stavanger, the company owns and operates a wind-hydrogen demo plant. Now the company is using its experience from managing large deepwater oil and gas fields towards building the world’s first full-scale floating windmill. This summer French company Technip will put together the different parts of a 2.3 MW windmill developed by Siemens and place them 5 kilometres from the coast of Karmøy, north of Stavanger, for a two-year test period. The wind turbine has the potential of producing power equivalent to the need of up to 5,000 homes. If the project goes as planned, the pilot could provide the basis for commercializing the technology for huge offshore windmill parks.
“We believe when and if offshore windmills become commercial, this could be a very important new industry for the Stavanger based oil and gas supply industry,” says Oistein Johannessen, StatoilHydro’s new energy public affairs manager.
North Sea POWER Cluster
Offshore wind in the North Sea region is the subject of a special transnational POWER (Pushing Offshore Wind Energy Regions) cluster partnership led by Bremerhaven Economic Development in Germany together with 17 other partners from Germany, the UK, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway (represented by Greater Stavanger) and Sweden. The aim is to develop comprehensive approaches towards meeting the strategic challenges of the offshore wind energy industry in the North Sea Region and make the region a better place in which to live, work and invest.
Greater Stavanger hosted a two-day POWER cluster kick-off meeting in September 2008 where the partners fine-tuned the plan for the next three years. Part of the group’s goals is to create a business platform to foster offshore wind energy development and develop an offshore wind power cluster in the North Sea Region.
Lyse Energy, the Rogaland-based energy and telecommunications company, has many plans for offshore wind power activities in the area. Its roots are as a hydro-power company, producing close to 5% of the country’s total hydropower. But it has expanded recently into onshore wind projects, such as the Ulvarudla wind park in Høg-Jaeren, which will produce 800 GWh per year, and has sought concessions for three other wind parks in the region.
Offshore, Lyse is planning a pilot project with five floating wind turbines at a water depth of 150 metres offshore at Utsira that could lead to the development of 60 wind turbines producing 1.2 TWh/year by 2020. It is also a 15.2% stakeholder in SWAY, a floating wind turbine company with StatoilHydro and Norwind, among others, that plans to commercialize this offshore technology by 2020.
“Although we cannot expect the oil and gas industry to shift its focus overnight to renewable energy, we must remember that their contribution will be substantial – not least the expertise that exists in these companies – and will be very important in the development forward, particularly in the renewable energy at sea,” says Eimund Nygaard, Lyse CEO.
Norsk Vind Energi is currently building the largest onshore wind park in southern Norway in the Stavanger region of Jaeren. The first of 32 turbines in Høg-Jaeren Energipark will start producing electricity in the fall of 2010. At maximum capacity, the park will generate 250 million kilowatt hours, enough to provide power to 12,000 homes (36,000 residents).
“As the climate problems become more urgent, it becomes a label rather than a burden,” says Lars Helge Helvig, Norsk Vind Enegi CEO. “Therefore it is important that the region wants to put more focus on the whole energy picture and renewable energy. It is important to recognize projects which underline that the region is preparing for a new era.”
Stavanger’s academic and research community will be instrumental in helping the wind power industry flourish in the region. IRIS was recently awarded a grant to develop a new type of wind turbine together with Angle Wind, a Stavanger-based company that has come up with a smaller gearbox for wind turbines that has less revolutions and less parts, and thereby suitable for offshore windmills. The University of Stavanger is co-partner with one of the eight Centres for Environment-friendly Energy Research (CEER), recently announced by the Norwegian Research Council. Stavanger will work with the Bergen-based institution Christian Michelsen Research on a Norwegian Centre for Offshore Wind Energy (NORCOWE).
Tidal & Wave Energy
Technology from the petroleum industry is also being used to harvest the energy from the seas. StatoilHydro is a joint owner of the world’s first tidal power turbine delivering electricity to the onshore grid through its ownership in Hammerfest Strøm. Within wave energy, StatoilHydro has invested in wave power technology developed by Ocean Power Delivery (OPD), which will build the world’s first commercial wave power plant off the coast of Portugal.
Another Stavanger-based company that has positioned itself in this market is Wave Energy. The company has built a wave tank with a hydraulic wave generator to recreate the wave climate at Kvitsøy. Its patented Seawave Slot Cone generator (SSG) can be used on top of an old oil platform or to power surrounding oil platforms, illustrating once again the technology ties between the oil and renewable energy sectors.
What makes this all possible is Stavanger’s unique connectivity to an existing electricity grid that stretches down the western coast of Norway into the city of Feda and connects Norway to the NorNed power cable through the North Sea to the seaport of Eemshaven in the Netherlands. Commercial operation started just last year. There are plans for an additional power cable between Feda and Wilhelmshaven, Germany, called NorGer involving Norwegian companies Lyse and Agder Energi.
“The whole basis for what we are doing is because of our access to energy resources,” says Birger Haraldseid, manager of opportunity for energy development in the Greater Stavanger Economic Development. “We are one of the best wind resources offshore Europe…and we are one of the few regions with access to export capacity.”
As part of its new green profile, the city is leading an EU climate reduction initiative called ANSWER that plans to set up a big screen climate barometer in the centre of Stavanger next year that will display carbon dioxide emissions on everything from car traffic to warming up houses. Stavanger is also the only Norwegian city that is part of the EU’s Covenant of Mayors that aims to reduce CO2 emissions 20% by 2020.