The key to the oil industry’s reputation is delivering good, concrete results, says Kristin Færøvik at the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association. “That covers both financial performance and HSE.”
Getting the message across
Active efforts are being made by the organisation, which represents oil and supplier companies on the NCS, to improve the standing of the sector.
“Our reputation is an important parameter for our continued existence,” explains Færøvik, who serves as chair of Norwegian Oil and Gas.
“This is closely related to trust. We must have the confidence of the general public in what we’re doing, and its acceptance of our activities.”
She adds that a strong positive image is also significant for recruitment to the sector. “That’s a matter of attracting good personnel, which is crucial for us.
“With the industry changing, it needs new expertise. We have a long-term perspective – we know able employees will be required for many years to come.”
Færøvik says it must not be forgotten that people in the petroleum sector work in Norway’s most important technological laboratory.
“So we also depend on attracting newcomers who can help us operate more efficiently and with less pollution – and who can contribute to continued digitalisation and to keeping us competitive.”
An important part of the job of building the petroleum industry’s reputation is about communicating the facts and telling the good stories, Færøvik emphasises.
“We try to convey what our sector means for Norwegian society and the national economy – stressing that we administer perhaps the most important resource in Norway, and in a prudent manner.
“Personally, I believe it’s important to get across that there’s every reason why Norway should continue competing to deliver the oil and gas the world will still need in the future.
“Norway’s been pursing petroleum operations for 50 years, but most people here nevertheless know very little about what the industry actually does.”
She acknowledges that this could well be the sector’s own fault to a great extent, because it has not been good enough at communicating.
That may have been because it was not challenged earlier in the same way as it is today, always got the workers it required, and had the necessary acceptance from politicians.
“We haven’t needed to explain the relationship between our industry and Norwegian prosperity, either to my parent’s generation or my own,” Færøvik observes.
“Both older people and those my age have experienced a formidable improvement in well-being in our own lifetimes as Norway has become a substantial oil and gas nation.
“It’s difficult for my children’s generation to imagine a world without the wealth which petroleum has conferred on us.”
“Our reputation is an important parameter for our continued existence. This is closely related to trust. We must have the confidence of the general public in what we’re doing, and its acceptance of our activities".
But Færøvik believes that the industry’s reputation is better than many people believe, and that it has a high level of acceptance among the general public – but that this is a silent majority.
“It’s our opponents who dominate the media picture, and it’s easy for a lot of people to be swayed by big, bold negative headlines.
“Many of those whose views get heard in the debate on our sector live a long way from where we operate.
“Appreciating that value must be created before it can be shared is undoubtedly easier when you can physically see what’s happening. That’s actually a general challenge for all industry.”
She feels the oil sector’s opponents have failed to present a realistic picture of the consequences of strangling an activity which is so crucial for the Norwegian economy.
“They create an impression that the planet won’t need oil and gas, and that continued production isn’t reconcilable with the emission targets the world has set itself.
“That in turn makes it appear that this is an industry with a limited future. It’s also alleged that jobs and revenues from oil are easy to replace.
“Some politicians and parties claim that this is just a matter of reallocating the capital to something else. But it’s not like that, of course.”
If the oil companies do not find it attractive to invest on the NCS, she points out, the capital will disappear to other countries.
Færøvik identifies three basic requirements for continued petroleum activity in Norway, starting with political acceptance and sensible operating parameters.
“Second, the industry must remain very profitable for Norway Ltd. And last, but not least, we must maintain a high level of HSE. These three factors are indissolubly linked.”
She points out that petroleum operations involve risk. Accidents have occurred before, and can happen again. Safety is also a natural issue when the sector is building its reputation.
“Talking about safety and risk is vital. That’s how we achieve the alertness we’re looking for. At the same time, we must talk about this in a rational way and not exaggerate.
“As an industry, we want nobody to get hurt at work – first and foremost out of concern for the individual employee. Operating in a safe and prudent manner is also crucial for our licence to operate.”
A good safety culture across the board is often linked with a positive ability to deliver, Færøvik observes. But action on safety must not be taken at the expense of efficient operation.
“We have to keep the cost/benefit perspective in view, both in developing the regulations and in the specific measures which are put in place.”
She points to simplification and standardisation as good measures for strengthening safety.
“Ultimately, the industry’s reputation is built not with words but with specific actions. The key requirement is to deliver good results – financially and in terms of safety.
“What really means something is our performance every single day. If we get things wrong, our reputation could be swiftly demolished.”