Underwater Technology Conference

Prime Minister Erna Solberg´s speech at the Underwater Technology Conference in Bergen, 12 June 2019.

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Good afternoon everyone,
It is a pleasure to be here at the Underwater Technology Conference.

And it’s nice to be back in my home city.

Bergen is the ocean capital of Norway, and an important place for activities in all our ocean industries.

As an ocean nation, Norway is having to adapt to a changing world and find new ways of using its ocean resources.

Underwater technology has a key role to play in helping us make this transition. I will return to this idea shortly.

We live in uncertain times, and the international community is facing multiple challenges – ranging from hunger and poverty to climate change.

I believe that the oceans hold the key to finding many of the solutions to these challenges.

This is why the Norwegian Government has put the ocean and the ocean industries, including underwater technology, high up on the political agenda.

It is also why I have invited 13 world leaders to join me in the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.

The panel will report to the UN Ocean Conference next year and present a roadmap for a sustainable ocean economy.

In a range of areas – from job creation to energy, health and nutrition – the potential of the oceans is tremendous. 

However, we will not be able to unleash this potential if we fail to keep the oceans clean.

We must also strike the right balance between conservation and sustainable use.

Last week, my Government presented its updated ocean strategy, Blue Opportunities, which reaffirms Norway’s priorities in this area.

In the time ahead, our ocean policy will focus more strongly on three specific areas:

  • Skills and digitalisation;
  • Value creation along the entire Norwegian coast; and
  • Climate change and green shipping.

Today, Norway's ocean industries make a huge contribution to our society in terms of value creation, jobs and exports – and they are vital to our coastal communities.

The oil and gas industry is by far the largest contributor.

Over 80 % of our ocean-based value creation comes from our oil and gas activities.

  • Around 170 000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the oil and gas sector.
  • This sector is the main contributor to our welfare state – which is so vital to our wellbeing.
  • It is also a technology-based sector, which will be crucial for the development of future industries and businesses.

This year, we are celebrating 50 years of activity on the Norwegian continental shelf.

We are also marking the start of the second phase of the gigantic Johan Sverdrup project, which will produce oil and gas for another 50 years.

We therefore need to take a long-term approach.

A great many people deserve credit for the Norwegian oil and gas success story.

In my view, all of you here today, who represent technology development in this industry, deserve a large share of the credit.

Let me give you three examples of technologies that have been, and still are, game changers in this industry, and that have made the Norwegian continental shelf internationally competitive:

  • First, multiphase transport. Norwegian research institutions helped to revolutionise this technology, which means that oil, gas and water can now flow in the same pipe over long distances.
  • Second, drilling. Norway has played a pioneering role in using horizontal and multilateral wells. This breakthrough has made new resources available globally.
  • And third, subsea technology. This is perhaps the most striking of Norway’s offshore achievements.

Subsea technology proves that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

High costs and low oil prices at the end of the 1980s prompted technological breakthroughs in this area, as subsea technology had the potential to:

  • reduce costs
  • increase production, and
  • reach the deep-sea resources conventional platforms were unable to reach.

Since then, Norwegian subsea technology has gone from strength to strength.

  • Seabed compression, which has revolutionised the oil and gas industry, is one example.

The subsea gas compression facility at the Åsgard field has increased recovery significantly, with estimated gains of 120 billion Norwegian kroner. At the same time, both energy consumption and CO2 emissions have been dramatically reduced.

  • Another example is multiphase subsea pumping.

The cooperation between Aker Solutions and FSubsea is a case in point: FAST Subsea has the potential to increase oil recovery rates by more than 20 %.

These are just two examples, but I believe that everyone in this room is involved in making technological breakthroughs, in one way or another.

I would like to thank all of you for the vital work you are doing.


As we are seeing to an increasing extent, the technology developed for our continental shelf can also be used in other sectors.

We saw this at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston last month.

We were shown how award-winning Norwegian solutions, originally developed for the oil and gas sector, can be applied in other sectors, such as health care, space-related activities, seafood and renewable energy.

It is clear to me that we will continue to need a strong and viable subsea cluster in the years to come.

This will enable us to grasp opportunities and solve challenges in a range of sectors, and develop new industries and businesses.

Our aim is to facilitate this development.

This is why we seek to provide long-term and predictable conditions for the offshore sector, for example by awarding attractive acreage and focusing on research and development.

In line with our policy, my Government awarded a record high number of new licences in 2018 in predefined areas (APA). For the 2019 APA round, we have added 90 new blocks.

Opening up new areas for development is a key pillar of our oil and gas policy: exploration activity is essential if we are to discover new resources.

And new discoveries provide new opportunities for:

  • the service and supply industry,
  • our highly skilled employees across the country, and
  • our research and development institutions.

A second pillar of our policy is the focus on research and development in the energy and oil and gas sectors. Our goal is to enhance green technologies, while at the same time securing the future competitiveness of this industry.

We must ensure that we are able to grasp the opportunities that lie ahead.


But we must also address the challenges we face.

Across Europe, we have seen children and young people calling for action on climate change.
This has made a deep impression on me.

We are now facing new challenges in our societies, which once again call for innovative solutions.

This requires global cooperation – and Norway will play an active part.

We are seeing spectacular growth and technological development in the area of renewable energy.

Furthermore, huge progress is being made in the development of electric vehicles and other emission-free modes of transport.

I am confident that the strong Norwegian research community and supplier industries will continue to see the great potential for further growth in these markets.

While the world needs more and cleaner energy, we believe the demand for oil and gas will continue for many years to come.

Here, Norway can contribute in three ways:

  • First: by producing oil and gas with low emissions, subject to the European Emission Trading System and high standards for health, safety and environment.
  • Second: By contributing to the shift from coal to gas in the European energy sector.

In the long run, hydrogen from natural gas combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) could be a cost-effective way of decarbonising the energy sector – and this would work well in combination with other zero-emission technologies.

  • And third: By using the expertise and technology from our energy and oil and gas sectors to further stimulate research and development.

We are moving in the right direction: 

  • Emissions related to production on the Norwegian continental shelf are already far lower than the global average.
  • And recently, the UK had its first coal-free week since 1882 – partly thanks to Norwegian gas!

Some politicians are demanding that Norway should reduce its oil and gas activities, or even set a final date for production on the Norwegian continental shelf.

I strongly disagree.

Stopping production now would have dramatic consequences for our society in terms of jobs, value creation and state revenues.

And as I just mentioned, the average emissions from our production are much lower than the global average – largely because of your work – in the areas of research, development and technology.

Obviously, a non-renewable resource does not last forever, and we need to plan for the future. 

One day, demand may drop to a point where production is not even profitable.

Let me add one final argument:

Those who argue that we should reduce or stop our oil and gas production, are, in effect, also proposing that we should reduce or stop the important technology development that is taking place in this sector.

This technology development could, for example, lead to a breakthrough in carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCS could make a huge difference to our efforts to reach our climate targets.

Or maybe offshore technology could help us to better exploit marine resources and meet the increasing food needs of a growing world population.

Or perhaps in the future we will be extracting more minerals from the seabed as part of the green transformation.

In this context, I could mention that the Government has established the legal framework for offshore mineral exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf.

A new law was approved by the Storting last year.


Nobody knows for certain how Norwegian offshore technology will be developed or used in the future.

But I am certain of one thing: the knowledge and technology we have gained during the last 50 years of activity on the Norwegian shelf will be of immense value to us in the future.

Our energy sector – led by a strong subsea industry – will help us to meet the challenges ahead.

  • It can give us the power to transform[3] into a low-emission society,
  • to create new jobs, and maintain a sustainable welfare-based society
  • and finally, to further develop our ocean sector to the benefit of our country as a whole. 

Thank you.