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A JOURNAL FROM THE PETROLEUM SAFETY AUTHORITY NORWAY

With big business on board

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The environmental challenges cannot be overcome by activism alone, says Nina Jensen. World-class expertise in the petroleum sector must also be utilised.

As CEO for the REV Ocean initiative, Jensen talks enthusiastically, torrentially and readily about the big scenarios and the challenges everyone faces.

She touches on the future winding-up of an industry, but the primary focus is on changes and solutions. Her message is crystal-clear:

“The petroleum sector must transform into a wholly renewable system. Otherwise the accounts won’t balance.”

She is irritated by the signals from Norway’s new coalition government headed by Labour’s Jonas Gahr Støre about developing, not winding up.

A halt to offshore exploration would send a clearer signal to the industry about faster change. Because that must happen urgently, she maintains – but admits it will not be simple.

“I don’t envy the oil company leaders or the politicians who will have to take these decisions, but the science is clear about what needs to be done.”

She is pretty sure that most people will be greatly opposed to running down the oil industry, particularly because of the economic consequences.

Checking out a changing industry

In a series of articles we will provide insights into some of the demands on and expectations for Norway’s largest and most profitable industry. These signals come f rom different quarters – politicians, climate activists, capital managers and employees.

Gloomy

Jensen paints a gloomy picture of the present position: “We’ve already produced far more fossil energy than the planet can cope with. We’re heading for a temperature rise of 2.7°C, while the ambition is 1.5°C. That doesn’t add up.”

But she nevertheless calls herself an optimist, because Norway’s experience as an energy nation will be worth its weight in gold during the coming transition.

And it will, in her view, be achieved. She lists offshore wind power, CCS, emission-free production of hydrogen and ammonia, and battery manufacture as sectors much in demand.

“We can deliver these with the oil and gas industry as a key piece in the puzzle,” Jensen affirms. “But something must be done now.”

That means she is unhappy about the signals from both the Støre government’s policy platform and November’s climate summit in Glasgow.

“This won’t do. It’s hollowed out and shows that policy-makers have fundamentally failed to understand the problem.”

But Jensen is far more positive about the attitude of Norwegian industry. Her impression is that climate and sustainability are high up the list of priorities for virtually every top executive in almost all sectors.

I don’t envy the oil company leaders or the politicians who will have to take these decisions, but the science is clear about what needs to be done.

Goal

REV Ocean was established by Norwegian businessman Kjell Inge Røkke in 2017 with just one goal – to make the world’s oceans healthier. The main priority for this non-commercial company is ending plastic pollution, overfishing and global warming.

A marine biologist by training, Jensen headed WWF in Norway before being offered her present job by Røkke three years ago. She took a long time to think about it.

“But if there’s something I’ve become more and more convinced about, it’s that people like Røkke will come to change the world,” she says.

In her view, much of the answer lies with the big industrial players. But she admits that her move to Røkke’s Aker group prompted fairly strong reactions in the environmental movement.

“But that soon blew over. I think many now regard this as a sensible choice,” Jensen reports.

“There are those who undoubtedly think it’s safer and better to be just a green activist, and that I’ve taken a dangerous path. At the same time, a lot of people see that we must join forces with big business to achieve noticeable results.”

Serious

Jensen believes the most important priority right now is to save the oceans, and she describes the position as serious.

“Over our lifetime, we’ve lost 40 per cent of life in the sea. And this is escalating as a result of overfishing, climate change and plastic pollution. We’re now entering one of the most important decades in the history of the planet.”

REV Ocean is currently working to create specific solutions for improving conditions in the world’s oceans. One measure or industry it wants to back is kelp cultivation.

According to Jensen, this offers opportunities for combined use with offshore wind power and for creating seaweed growth sites around redundant offshore platforms.

Both natural and farmed kelp bind CO2 and yield a net reduction of this gas in the atmosphere and the upper layer of the oceans. It can be used for food, animal feed, medicines and clothing.

Opportunities

Jensen admits that too little is known about the potential profitability of kelp farming. But research is being done, and she believes big opportunities exist to develop a business which can also make an important contribution to the climate solution.

However, her faith in seabed mining is correspondingly small. “This is one of the worst imaginable activities you could introduce now. There are no good arguments for starting on it.”

She worries about the impact which extensive extraction of seabed minerals could have on ecosystems, and fears that such activities could be disastrous for life in the sea.

Seabed mining is one of the worst imaginable activities you could introduce now. There are no good arguments for starting on it.

Learn

Jensen is quite convinced that offshore wind power will play a key role in tomorrow’s energy provision, but emphasises the importance of learning from errors made with this energy source on land.

Environmental considerations and safety must be handled in such a way that they bolster trust among people, who are undoubtedly unaware of the challenges involved.

“Overcoming these issues must be the most important job before we go ahead with this. Oil and gas operations have given us nearly 50 years of experience with environmental and safety aspects of work on the NCS. We must take that expertise with us.”

Solutions

She hopes a future is looming where renewable energy is making formidable progress, and good solutions have been found for storing energy in batteries.

The world will hopefully then be cleaner, more renewable and more circular, with resources being looked after and reused. But is such a prospect realistic?

“It ought to be, at least,” Jensen says, but admits such a development is fairly optimistic. It assumes that everyone stops pigeonholing each other, and that all positive forces pull together both in the environmental movement and in business.

“This is where the solution lies,” she believes. Together with all the expertise built up during Norway’s oil age.

Dialogue article

This article has been taken from our Dialogue journal, which aims to encourage debate on some of the most relevant issues and challenges faced by the industry in the safety area.