Royal opening

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
HM King Harald V performed the official opening of Draugen on 1 December 1993. He pressed the button at 12.15 to symbolise the field coming on stream 145 kilometres north-west of Kristiansund.
— The King of Norway Harald V cutting the ribbon. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norsk Oljemuseum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

This ceremonial act marked the start to oil production not only from a new offshore development but also from a whole new petroleum province on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). Tidens Krav, the local Kristiansund newspaper, even saw the ceremony as the beginning of a completely new era for Norway’s oil industry.

It observed that the magic barrier of the 62nd parallel – defined as the northern boundary of the North Sea ¬– had finally been breached. A further petroleum region with unimaginable resources would contribute big assets to the development of Norwegian society for generations to come.

“With the opening of Draugen, the first step has been taken into a new future for mid-Norway [which includes Møre og Romsdal and the Trøndelag region],” the paper wrote.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Asbjørn Jordahl, 2 December 1993. “Mulighetenes ti-år”. Tidens Krav.

kongen åpner, helikopter, ankomst, engelsk,
His Majesty King Harald V arrives in helicopter. The official opening of Draugen will take place. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

This was also the first field which King Harald had the honour to open, in the presence of 40 carefully selected guests – including Norske Shell CEO Martin van den Wittenboer.

Also invited were Hans Meijer, Norske Shell’s exploration and production head, and the Draugen management team headed by operations manager Terje Olsen.
Møre og Romsdal was represented by county governor Alv Jakob Fostervoll and county council chair Grethe Bjørlo, Kristiansund by mayor Harald Stokke and the Ministry of Industry and Energy by state secretary (junior minister) Gunnar Myrvoll.

A visit by the monarch himself was naturally a big affair. One of his adjutants boarded the platform a week in advance to map out the royal itinerary. Everything was planned in detail – which toilet the king would use, a cabin in case he needed to rest and where he could smoke. Nothing was left to chance. Planning is one thing, reality another. A slight panic arose when the king’s luggage went missing. He had taken off his jacket before donning a survival suit for the flight to the field.

Although the royal guest left the helicopter on Draugen, his luggage with jacket ended up on Regalia, the flotel moored alongside the Draugen platform. “Has anyone seen my jacket,” King Harald enquired after his arrival. A search was instituted, the mishap quickly discovered and the garment returned at express speed.

kongen åpner, omvisning, engelsk,
The King got a guided tour of Draugen. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The tour of the platform and the symbolic opening went entirely according to plan, and the monarch was in high good humour when he pressed the button. In reality, the field had come on stream as early as 19 October and production had therefore been under way for almost six weeks before the royal visit.

The ceremony was followed by lunch in the mess. “Everyone was dressed to the nines and the mood was good,” recalls production head Per Sælevik. “After the main course, though, the king produced a cigarette packet, pulled one out and lit up …”

Operations manager John Aitkin rushed to call the control room. “You must override all the smoke detectors in the canteen,” he ordered. “The king is smoking …” Others took advantage of the royal lead, and the cigarette smoke hung thickly over the mess. “I think I’ve helped a lot of people now,” King Harald observed calmly.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Sælevik, Per, Anecdotes from Draugen, unpublished.

kongen åpner, lunsj, engelsk,
Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

In order for more people to participate in this special day, some 200 guests had been invited to follow the visit via TV monitors at Kristiansund’s Rica Hotel. They toasted and clapped as the button was pressed. The whole event on Draugen was transmitted live, preceded by glimpses from the construction of the concrete gravity base structure, the tow north from Stavanger to the Halten Bank and installation of the platform on 17 May.

Employees in Norske Shell’s operations office at Råket in Kristiansund, its head office in Oslo, and the offices in Sola outside Stavanger and Bergen also saw the transmission.

kongen åpner, engelsk,
The banquet menu at Rica Hotel in Kristiansund on the occation of the official opening of the Draugen field.

After the king and his entourage had returned from Draugen, a gala dinner was held at the Festiviteten banqueting hall in Kristiansund, with festive speeches and fine words. “The development of Draugen and Heidrun has created optimism and drive in a region which has lagged behind in recent decades,” King Harald observed in his speech.

kongen åpner, skipsklokke,
I gave fra Norske Shell fikk kongen en tro kopi av skipsklokken fra det gamle kongeskipet Heimdal. Foto: A/S Norske Shell/Norsk Oljemuseum

He concluded by hoping that the town and its environs would meet the new challenges with hope, enthusiasm and a willingness to commit. After various cultural interludes, the monarch was presented by Mahdi Hasan, project director for the Draugen development, with a gift from Norske Shell. This took the form of an exact copy of the ship’s bell from the old royal yacht Heimdal, which had greeted the king’s grandfather, King Haakon VII, off Drøbak on the Oslo Fjord.
Accompanied by Queen Maud and Crown Prince Olav, Norway’s new monarch had been on his way to the capital on 25 November 1905 to take up his throne.
Kristiansund council did not want to be put in the shade, and Stokke presented King Harald with cufflinks bearing the town’s coat of arms.

kongen åpner, skipsklokke, engelsk,
The ship's bell is a true copy from the old royal yacht Heimdal. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwgian Petroleum Museum

He followed up by girting the Draugen administration with the six-volume history of the town. The new residents were to be incorporated not only in its present and future but also its past.

Fog and wind prevented the return flight to Oslo taking off from Kvernberget, and the king’s departure was therefore postponed. Instead, the party continued with more drinks being served and the mood rose irreproachably. The weather improved late in the evening and the royal plane could take off.

On the following day, Draugen information manager Alf Kristian Lillebo was called by the county governor and feared that something had gone wrong. But the governor wanted to report that the palace had called to express its satisfaction with the arrangements. Queen Sonja had commented that His Majesty had been in an unusually good mood when he returned the evening before.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Sælevik, Per, Anecdotes from Draugen, unpublished.

Film: Draugen opening ceremony

Photo: Draugen opening ceremony

Program åpning Draugenfeltet

Published October 5, 2018   •   Updated October 17, 2018
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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The city of oil

person av Trude Meland, Norsk Oljemuseum
Efforts to turn Kristiansund into an oil base were driven by a small clique of forward-looking residents, who saw opportunities for the town as the “mid-Norway oil centre” from an early stage.
— Supply vessels docked in Kristiansund September, 1986. Photo: Tidens Krav /Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Local politicians started to work on this idea in 1970, which culminated at a meeting of the council’s executive board on 17 September 1970. The chief technical officer was asked to investigate and identify municipal and private properties able to provide quays which would be suitable for servicing oil exploration.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Those who want a more detailed description of the base issue in Kristiansund are recommended to read Hegerberg, H (2004). Et stille diplomati: Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund local authority. Large parts of this article are based on that work.

This “base decision” showed that Kristiansund wanted a special role if offshore operations were extended above the 62nd parallel (the northern limit of the North Sea). Read more in the article on opening this part of the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

It is worth observing that this meeting took place less than a year after Norway’s first commercial oil discovery – Ekofisk, about as far south on the NCS as it could get – and nine months before that field came on stream.

vestbase, faksimile, artikkel, engelsk,
Kristiansund Municipality adverticing "oljens dag" (the oil day) in the local newspaper Tidens Krav, 15.09.2008

Kristiansund’s new identify as a petroleum centre is so closely linked to this date that the town now celebrates 17 September as Oil Day every year. While the town’s oil committee took the initiative on this development, good collaboration between the council and local industry helped to lay the foundations for Vestbase.
When the facility could finally open a decade later, both these parties had invested large sums every year and devoted considerable work to turn it into a reality. Attractive sites were reserved from an early stage so that they would be available for establishing possible industrial activity at a later stage. While the chief technical officer identified potential sites, others made a big commitment in preparing and drawing up unified strategies and forging contacts with relevant players.

The local authority was well prepared and united when opportunities to attract petroleum-related operations arose. And the whole Nordmøre district also spoke with one voice here.

On 9 October 1972, council chairs from the region collectively identified Kristiansund as the natural base location for petroleum exploration off Møre og Romsdal. This was followed up by the county’s oil committee in the following February.  Even more positively, the oil committees in both Sør- and Nord-Trøndelag called in March 1973 for the base to be in Kristiansund. This regional unity would prove important.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solberg, J. (2009). Det Norske Oljeeventyret: En Analyse Av Den Petroleumsrelaterte Utviklingen I Midt- Og Nord-Norge.

Read the history fo Vestbase.

Published October 5, 2018   •   Updated October 18, 2018
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The Vestbase supply base in Kristiansund was opened in 1980. Along with a functioning heliport, it was crucial for Norske Shell’s decision to place the Draugen operations organisation in the town.
— Vestbase in Kristiansund. Photo: Fotograf Engvig/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Located at Vikan in Kristiansund’s Nordlandet district, the base is a wholly owned subsidiary of NorSea Group AS and ranked in 2017 as the main hub for offshore operations in the Norwegian Sea. Both the operator companies with permanent activity off mid-Norway (which includes Møre og Romsdal and Sør/Nord-Trøndelag counties) were then established at the base site.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Vestbase AS, downloaded on 11 January 2018 from its own website: (publication date unspecified).

Vestbase, engelsk,
A September evening in 1992, A/S Norske Shell convened 600 guests for a grand barbecue to mark the official opening of the storage facility at Vestbase in Kristiansund. Communications manager Alf Kristian Lillebo and his secretary Christina Hovde (left) doing a test dance, and department manager Asbjørn Harestad offers secretary Gunhild Oftedal a swing on the dance floor before the guests arrive. Photo: Bjørn Hansen/Tidens Krav

Alongside these two – A/S Norske Shell and Statoil ASA (now Equinor) – came some 60 supplier companies who were represented on the site. The Draugen, Heidrun, Åsgard B, Njord and Kristin platforms as well as the Åsgard A production ship were being supplied from Vestbase in 2017. And it also supported subsea developments Mikkel, Ormen Lange, Tyrihans, Yttergryta and Morvin. When the decision to locate the Draugen organisation in Kristiansund was taken in 1988, the Storting (parliament) gave emphasis to the presence of a functioning base. The Bill on this issue noted: “The company points out that experience shows a compact organisation with operations office, base functions and heliport in the same place has positive effects for [these] units.”

Vestbase was selected by the Storting as the supply base for both the Draugen and the Heidrun fields on the Halten Bank in the Norwegian Sea.

Long trek

Reaching this point had been a long trek. Efforts to turn Kristiansund into an oil base were driven by a small clique of forward-looking residents, who saw opportunities for the town as the “mid-Norway oil centre” from an early stage.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Those who want a more detailed description of the base issue in Kristiansund are recommended to read Hegerberg, H (2004). Et stille diplomati: Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund local authority. Large parts of this article are based on that work.

Local politicians started to work on this idea in 1970, which culminated at a meeting of the council’s executive board on 17 September 1970. The chief technical officer was asked to investigate and identify municipal and private properties able to provide quays which would be suitable for servicing oil exploration.

This “base decision” showed that Kristiansund wanted a special role if offshore operations were extended above the 62nd parallel (the northern limit of the North Sea). Read more in the article on opening this part of the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). It is worth observing that this meeting took place less than a year after Norway’s first commercial oil discovery – Ekofisk, about as far south on the NCS as it could get – and nine months before that field came on stream.

Kristiansund’s new identify as a petroleum centre is so closely linked to this date that the town now celebrates 17 September as Oil Day every year. While the town’s oil committee took the initiative on this development, good collaboration between the council and local industry helped to lay the foundations for Vestbase.
When the facility could finally open a decade later, both these parties had invested large sums every year and devoted considerable work to turn it into a reality. Attractive sites were reserved from an early stage so that they would be available for establishing possible industrial activity at a later stage. While the chief technical officer identified potential sites, others made a big commitment in preparing and drawing up unified strategies and forging contacts with relevant players.

The local authority was well prepared and united when opportunities to attract petroleum-related operations arose. And the whole Nordmøre district also spoke with one voice here.

On 9 October 1972, council chairs from the region collectively identified Kristiansund as the natural base location for petroleum exploration off Møre og Romsdal. This was followed up by the county’s oil committee in the following February.  Even more positively, the oil committees in both Sør- and Nord-Trøndelag called in March 1973 for the base to be in Kristiansund. This regional unity would prove important.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Solberg, J. (2009). Det Norske Oljeeventyret: En Analyse Av Den Petroleumsrelaterte Utviklingen I Midt- Og Nord-Norge.

To see how a small town in mid-Norway succeeded in winning the fight on this important issue of base location for the region, and later for Draugen, the process must be considered step by step. It took a decade, and many obstacles had to be overcome.


Kristiansunds tidligere historie, engelsk,
William Dall chaired the local authority communication committee for 15 years and the Kristiansund airport committee for 10. He chaired the petroleum committee in 1970-80, and then became the local authority’s first oil consultant. Dall also led the XU espionage organisation in Kristiansund during the war. Photo: Romsdalsposten/Nordmøre Museum

Kristiansund’s oil committee was formed in 1970 to secure a supply and service base for the town, and included mayor Asbjørn Jordahl from Labour until he was elected to the Storting in 1977. Other founder members were consul and shipbroker William Dall from the Conservatives (until 1980), and pharmacist and Liberal Otto Dyb (until 1995, chair from 1980).

In addition came chief technical officer Ole Gunnesdal (until his death in 1979) and council architect Kristian Sylthe (until 1991, when he left the local authority). During its early days, the committee received good advice from central government through confidential contacts with Oluf Christian “Ossi” Müller. Born in Kristiansund, the latter was now secretary general at the Ministry of Industry and friends with key members of the oil committee – particularly Dall, who he had been to school with.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hegerberg, H. (2004). Et stille diplomati: Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund: Kristiansund kommune.

Müller also urged the town and committee to prepare sites for possible petrochemical industry. This called for much larger areas – 200-300 hectares and preferably port facilities for big tankers.

vestbase, engelsk,
Photo: H.M.Valderhaug/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Kristiansund was a small local authority in 1970, covering just 22 square kilometres – making it Norway’s smallest incorporated town – spread over several islands. So it was not easy to find suitable land within the municipal boundaries. The only option for attracting large-scale industry to the region was to ally with neighbouring local authorities. A collaboration established with Averøy, Frei and Tusna functioned well, and yielded a joint document in 1972 where areas potentially suited for various industries were presented.

This work proceeded in parallel with identifying appropriate sites for a supply base. The oil committee believed in any event that such a facility should lie within Kristiansund’s boundaries. All possible and less-than-possible locations were mapped for a possible future exploration base. They had to be at least 0.8 hectares, able to provide a quay and lie within the town limits.

The first list from the committee included eight candidates, mostly in the town centre, with the former gasworks site in the urban core as the first choice.
A more detailed analysis admittedly showed that all eight were on the small side and offered little opportunity for expansion because they were hemmed in by existing buildings.

So the search continued, and new areas were mapped. Three additional sites were introduced in January 1971 – including the one at Vikan. An important document in this identification work was the general plan for area utilisation in Kristiansund, which the council had been working on since 1968 and published in 1971.

This divided the town’s restricted acreage into five “development guidelines”, with three defined as areas where employment activities would be concentrated. Nordlandet, the largest of the town’s islands, already had established industry and the largest amount of unutilised land suitable for industrial operations and jobs.
According to the plan, further commercial activity was to expand where it already from before. But a secondary centre for services and manufacturing would be created in Nordlandet’s Løkkemyra-Vikan area. So Vikan was in the loop as early as 1971.

The oil committee’s results were published in an advertising brochure for distribution to central government agencies and interested companies.
This aimed to acquaint Norway’s emerging petroleum sector with what Kristiansund had to offer for a future supply base when offshore operations moved north. Jordahl penned a covering letter.

An overview of potential base sites within the town limits was presented in the brochure. Although it was small, with limited expansion opportunities, the gasworks site – now a town-centre car park – found a place on the list.
So did Holmakaia, right behind the town hall, and naturally also Vikan. The latter area lay on the southern shores of Nordlandet.

Others get involved

The town council and its oil committee were not alone in preparing for a new era and a new industry. Kristiansund’s two big shipyards – Sterkoder and Storvik Mekaniske Verksted (SMV) – lay on the north side of Nordlandet and wanted their share of the oil cake.

Kristiansunds tidligere historie, engelsk
Photo: Shadé Barka Martins/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Sterkoder and its CEO, Arnfinn Kamsvåg, mobilised early and tackled the issue on two fronts – becoming an offshore fabricator and establishing a service base.
For this purpose, the company secured a new site at Smevågen in Averøy, Kristiansund’s neighbouring local authority to the south-west. This island is linked to the town today by the Atlantic Tunnel, which opened in 2009. In the 1970s, however, communication between the two communities was still by sea.

Where a base was concerned, Sterkoder established a dialogue with Norsco – one of the three big companies operating bases in and around Stavanger. The idea was ultimately to combine the offshore workshop with a supply facility. But Kristiansund council and the oil committee were unenthusiastic about a base in Averøy.

For its part, SMV contacted North Sea Exploration Service, another of Stavanger’s base companies, and worked actively to get control of neighbouring properties at Dale in Nordlandet to build a supply base alongside its own yard. West Coast Service was established in the autumn of 1971 by SMV, with 40 per cent, North Sea Exploration Service, with 40 per cent, and Kristiansund Finans with the remaining 20 per cent.

This company represented a precautionary move in order to be ready when oil exploration eventually began above the 62nd parallel. It remained dormant, with a modest share capital. The oil committee was happy to see these signs of competition, at a time when no timetable had been set for extending offshore operations to the continental shelf off Møre og Romsdal. No White Papers had yet addressed this issue, and everything remained very uncertain. See the article on opening the northern NCS.


In order to realise its petroleum dream, Kristiansund had to get central government on its side. The town was very hopeful that the Storting would designate it as mid-Norway’s main supply base. The Ministry of Local Government appointed a joint local authority committee in 1972 to assess location requirements and choices for future bases above the 62nd parallel.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ministry of Industry (1976). Petroleumsundersøkelser nord for 62°N, Report no 91 (1975-76) to the Storting, Oslo: 52. Downloaded from

Appointed at the initiative of Kristiansund native Müller, among others, this body established a number of general criteria for determining which town would be chosen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hegerberg, H. (2004). Et stille diplomati: Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund: Kristiansund kommune: 48 These include a central position in relation to the opened areas – in other words, those parts of the NCS where the government would permit future oil and gas exploration.

The chosen town also had to be close to an airport which met a high standard and provided the capacity to accommodate heavily laden aircraft. That was supplemented by a need for good communications by sea and land, where port conditions included quays and cranage for heavy lifts, and where land was available in reasonable proximity. Access was also necessary to well-equipped workshops and other industrial services, and the urban community should offer versatile service and environmental provision. The final – and perhaps most important – requirement was that the location for mid-Norway’s oil service base had to meet both oil and not least regional policy goals.

This list might have been written explicitly with Kristiansund in mind. Its airport had opened in 1970 and access to the sea was straightforward.  Land links were more of the problem. The town was spread over three islands which were closely tied to each other, but would lack a road connection with the mainland until 1992.
The committee’s report, submitted on 27 October 1972, recommended Kristiansund as the site of a main service base for petroleum exploration off mid-Norway.

Regional policy considerations weighed heavily. A base “would be of great significance in strengthening the economic basis of the region,” the report noted.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ministry of Industry (1974) Virksomheten på den norske kontinentalsokkelen m.v, Report no 30 (1973-74) to the Storting. Oslo: 56. Downloaded from
Kristiansund was in decline at the time, with industry contracting and unemployment high. At the same time, it was centrally located for offshore exploration off mid-Norway. Representatives from the town visited the industry ministry in December 1972, two months after the committee had presented its recommendation.

As we have seen, the town was a strong base candidate because it met most of the requirements set by the government. But this was not enough for the ministry – Kristiansund had to obtain collective support from the whole region.


The town took this challenge seriously. It contacted the other local authorities in Møre as well as the county governors of More og Romsdal and Sør/Nord-Trøndelag to draw up a joint plan for a regional petroleum policy. Møre og Romsdal’s county oil committee was the first to express its support on 6 February 1973 after voting five to one for Kristiansund as the main supply base. The dissenting voice came from Ålesund, the principal town in Sunnmøre further south, which was pursuing its own ambitions at the time to secure an offshore base.

Support from the region was one thing, but Kristiansund’s own council had yet to take a decision. This occurred on 7 February 1973, with a unanimous vote to support the base proposal. The resolution also stated that partners would be sought and that the council would begin talks with Østlandske Lloyd, part of the Fred Olsen shipping group, on building a base at Vikan.

With the signing of a letter of intent between these two parties, the council had indicated that it intended to allocate the area around Vikan for a future oil base.
Regional declarations of support continued to arrive. On 19 February, the Møre og Romsdal county executive board backed Kristiansund by 10 votes to one – Ålesund again in opposition.

The executive boards for Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag county councils followed with unanimous votes on 9 and 21 March respectively. Support from these mid-Norway councils increased the likelihood that the Storting would approve Kristiansund as an oil centre, and allow the dream to become reality.
No legislation existed in the early 1970s which specified that the Storting was to decide when and where petroleum bases could be built round the country. In principle, both local authority and private base companies could set up shop wherever they fancied. But some opportunities for official control nevertheless existed.

Being selected by the Storting did confer some advantages, such as access to basic investment through the Regional Development Fund and to favourable government loans. However, this was changed in 1973 when the ultimate decision on the positioning of main supply bases was assigned to the Storting.
To ensure greater powers over the location and number of major oil-related projects, the government introduced a temporary Act to regulate the establishment of companies.

That made the petroleum sector subject to more detailed regulation than any other industry in Norway, primarily to achieve efficient control of new and expanded operations in areas experiencing development pressure. This in turn allowed the authorities to keep total activities within the confines of overall national resources and to achieve a reasonable regional distribution of such operations.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Lunde, H and the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Labour (1974). Etableringskontroll og lokaliseringsveiledning, Norwegian Official Reports (NOU): 46. Universitetsforlaget, Oslo.

In regional policy terms, the Establishment Act was viewed as important for spreading more of the oil industry to economically underdeveloped areas.
The Act specified in part that “no development of bases for the petroleum industry … may be initiated before the King has given his consent.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ministry of Finance (1974). Petroleumsvirksomhetens plass i det norske samfunn, Report Nr 25 (1973-74) to the Storting: 80. Downloaded from Applications for such projects were to be sent to the local government ministry and submitted to relevant county governors and county/local councils. In other words, the central government would decide – in consultation with both counties and local authorities – who could be allowed to call themselves a “base town”.

The temporary legislation was replaced by a permanent Act on 20 February 1976. It lost much of its significance from the late 1980s and was repealed in 1994. After the boost provided by support from the rest of mid-Norway, the remainder of 1973 proved a time of waiting for Kristiansund council and its oil committee.
Everyone was waiting for clarification from the Storting on the location issue and for a decision to start oil exploration off mid-Norway.

The final settlement of the first question was provided on 15 February 1974, when White Paper no 25 on the place of petroleum in Norwegian society was issued by the finance ministry.

Known as the “oil report”, this recommended that “the area off Trøndelag and Møre will provide the basis for establishing a base in Kristiansund”. This decision aroused no controversy in the Storting, and was ratified unanimously. The mood in Kristiansund was naturally jubilant. But the celebrations were somewhat muted by the government’s simultaneous pronouncement that exploration above the 62nd parallel would start off northern Norway, and then move south. Admittedly, the White Paper said a rapid opening of areas outside the Møre/Trøndelag coast would be desirable. But it looked as if it might take many years for the first rig to show up there.

As long as the government refrained from allowing exploration drilling, no base would be needed. That depended on operations out to sea. The Storting’s standing committee on industry also supported the choice of Kristiansund as the main base location. Finally, the town had secured the acceptance it had been pursuing for so many years. But much work remained before the base became a reality.

White Paper no 25 was followed up by the industry ministry’s own White Paper no 30 on offshore activities, where specific proposals for the start to exploration were presented.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ministry of Industry (1974). Virksomheten på den norske kontinentalsokkelen m.v. Report no 30 (1973-74) to the Storting. Oslo. Downloaded from Drilling would begin off Troms in the far north during 1975 or 1976, and outside Møre and Trøndelag at roughly the same time or a little later.
With only two years until activity could get going off their own coast and with the Storting’s blessing as a base town, the Kristiansund council could finally initiate construction. However, two key questions remained to be answered – where would the base be located, and which company was to build and operate it.

Decision time

As noted above, the town council had voted in February 1973 that the area around Vikan was to be used for a base and signed a letter of intent with Østlandske Lloyd. Nevertheless, the oil committee was also working with West Coast Service at Dale in collaboration with SMV and wanted two areas to be put into operational condition. While Vikan was admittedly intended to be the main supply base in the long run, it was possible that a smaller facility at Dale would be needed in the first exploration phase.

In January 1975, the Kristiansund council made a formal approach to Statoil to establish collaboration over a service and supply base. The state oil company was positive. But wanted it to wait for the government and would not commit until the Storting decided when oil activities would begin off mid-Norway and how extensive they would be. This was due to be specified in a promised White Paper, and construction of a base could not begin until that document had been produced.

In early 1976, the council started work on an application to the Ministry of Local Government for a licence to set up a base pursuant to the 1973 Establishment Act, and for state funding. Just when everything appeared to falling into place, new obstacles arose. In particular, a decision on oil drilling in the north turned out to be taking much longer than expected.

This delay prompted Østlandske Lloyd to withdraw from the Vikan project on 26 September 1975, two years after it signed the letter of intent with the council.
The company was dissatisfied with the government’s policy on private-sector involvement in oil operations, while it also had financial problems because of a shipbuilding recession.

So what was the oil committee to do now? Its new plan aimed to put together a group comprising Statoil and other oil companies, local enterprises and the council to build and operate the base jointly. This facility was conceived as a combination of business park and base. To make the best possible provision, the council now acquired 180 000 square metres in Vikan for the project.

A budget for investment in and operation of the planned base area was presented in December 1975, and a construction project finally looked like getting off the ground. The first draft of a timetable was ready in January 1976. But Sterkoder had not given up. It also approached Statoil over a supply base on Averøy, offering the state company 50 per cent while it took 25 per cent and Kværner the remainder.

But the latter was not a natural partner for Statoil, and this proposal failed to win acceptance. Sterkoder and Kværner continued the work as a joint venture. This proved an eye-opener for Kristiansund. The town now had to decide if it was not to lose what had been sought for so long on the last lap.

The council and oil committee feared that exploration drilling would begin off mid-Norway before the Vikan facility was ready, and had to find an interim solution.
They turned yet again to SMV in order to lease quays and base areas until Vikan was operational. The yard was positive, and keen to negotiate a lease. In White Paper no 91 (1975-1976) on petroleum operations above the 62nd parallel, which finally appeared in April 1976, the ministry said it wanted only one base company in Kristiansund.

Involving local industry as much as possible in petroleum-related service operations was another of the conditions set. The council was expected to back companies which wanted to establish service functions on a base.

At the same time, the council was encouraged by the ministry to invite Statoil to collaborate on such a facility. The White Paper noted that the town’s oil committee was already in discussion on this issue with North Sea-West Coast Service and Atlantoil, as well as the state oil company. The most interesting section of the White Paper for Kristiansund detailed when drilling was to start. It finally announced that oil exploration off Møre and Trøndelag would begin at the same time as further north in 1978.

Statoil was to bear the main responsibility for such drilling and would be able to demand a 50 per cent interest, or more, in all production licences.

Too small

A preliminary design was now produced for the Vikan base, but this process made it clear that the 16-hectare site was too small. It needed to be at least 20 hectares.
In addition, it would be expensive to develop, the topography was irregular, the quays were difficult to access and had poor seabed conditions, and weather conditions were generally unstable. A bit late in the day to discover all this now.

Neither the oil committee nor the rest of the local authority could see any alternative within the town limits, and the committee found itself wavering.
It and the council had no other option but to look again at the costs of the Vikan site compared with Sterkoder and SMV. After some discussion, a lease of the Dale site was sought.

New delays

An oil blowout occurred in a well on the Ekofisk field on 22 April 1977. The offshore accident which everyone had feared was now a reality. Nobody was killed, but the 2/4 Bravo platform sprayed out oil for almost seven days. This incident sparked new debate on whether and when to open the NCS above the 62nd parallel for exploration.

On this occasion, however, the delay was welcomed by Kristiansund. After six years of work, no base existed yet and no company had been formed to run it. The oil committee, which had worked so hard and been so positive, was down for the count. But the autumn of 1977 marked a turning point for the town as a base. Fresh forces made their appearance – not least in the shape of Thor Sætherø, the council’s new chief financial officer.

He was a man with initiative and liked to operate on his own. After contacting both the ministry and Statoil, he agreed with the latter to launch preparations for establishing a base company. Under the agreement, this locally based enterprise would be a partner with Statoil but the latter would own at least 50 per cent. Kristiansund council and regional industry both had to participate.

The approach adopted in building up a base company utilised the model developed by Statoil for the support facility at Harstad further to the north.

Company formed

Midt-Norsk Baseservice AS was formed in December 1978 as a local enterprise which would “work for the shareholders’ participation in and benefit from the activity which oil exploration and the possible subsequent production phase would generate”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hegerberg, H. (2004). Et stille diplomati: Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund: Kristiansund kommune: 114

The company was to provide the oil industry with information about what its shareholders could offer in the shape of goods and services, and forge contracts between them and oil companies. It would also organise inspection tours, study trips and conferences, and help to establish new enterprises which would be needed when oil operations got going. Another aim was to become a shareholder in the base company due to be set up.

In March 1979, a base site for the exploration phase had still to be chosen. Statoil aimed to have a facility ready for operation in Kristiansund on 1 April 1980. The oil company took the view that preparation of the Vikan site was now urgent, and should start not later than 1 July 1979. After nine years, time was suddenly short.
A formal decision to establish the Vestbase facility at Vikan was not taken by the council until 30 March 1979. Construction started on 30 July and the base was inaugurated on 27 May 1980.

Kristiansund council installed power, water and so forth, while Statoil – which leased the land – took responsibility for and funded development of the necessary base facilities.

In parallel, the final green light for exploration above the 62nd parallel was given by the Storting in May 1979. The deadline to apply for licences in these waters was set as 1 August 1979, with drilling to begin in May 1980.


The main job of Vestbase was to offer space and equipment at all times for supporting petroleum activities off mid-Norway. Facilities included personnel, outdoor storage and quays.

In addition came bulk warehousing with heated and refrigerated stores, offices, stockpiles of oil spill clean-up gear, transport equipment and containers. The base also offered a range of goods and services such as ship’s chandlery, technical maritime requisites, shipping agents, container services, steel rope and chain, and customs clearance.

It was initially owned 40 per cent by Midt-Norsk Baseservice A/S with 40 per cent, Statoil 40 per cent and Saga Petroleum 10 per cent. Vestbase functioned well from the start, but did not have that much to do. A total of 15.5 work-years were performed during the first year. Strangely enough, however, local industry stayed away. More companies eventually moved in. Activity at the facility fluctuated in line with operations off mid-Norway but did not really take off until Draugen came on stream in 1993.

Norske Shell was awarded exploration acreage outside the Møre and Trøndelag coast in 1984, and established an operations office at the base. By 27 July that year, Shell knew it had found oil and Draugen was declared commercial on 14 May 1987. That marked the start of the fight for the operations organisation and supply base.

Covering 600 000 square metres of harbour area, Vestbase is now the main supply base for petroleum operations in the Norwegian Sea. In 1990, it secured the transport assignment for the Draugen development – characterised as “the biggest contract so far in mid-Norway”.

This job was important not only because of its size, but also because it brought the base new expertise which would be very important for the future. The contract was secured at a favourable moment for Vestbase, and saved it during a difficult time. The company was split in 1994 into an operations arm (Vestbase AS) and a property enterprise (Vikan Eiendom AS). As the base has developed, other property companies have been established, including Vikan Næringspark Invest AS.

Vestbase AS is now wholly owned by NorSea Group AS, a leading national player for port and base operation.

Other important milestones for the facility include:

  • 1995 Heidrun, platform, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 1997 Njord, platform, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 1999 Åsgard A, production ship, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 2000 Åsgard B, platform, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 2003 Mikkel, subsea development, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 2005 Kristin, platform, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 2007 Ormen Lange, subsea development, operator: A/S Norske Shell
  • 2009 Yttergryta, subsea development, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 2009 Tyrihans, subsea development, operator: Statoil ASA
  • 2010 Morvin, subsea development, operator: Statoil ASA

The facility has developed from being a purely logistical hub into an operation and service centre for offshore-related operations. It is now a business park rather than simply a base, hosting more than 60 companies with 700-800 employees.
Its own organisation has about 210 staff, making it Kristiansund’s biggest private employer.

Operations during the first 20 years after 1980 related mainly to base and supply functions. But Vestbase has seen a sharp growth since 2010 in technical and other petroleum-related services, with more expertise-based jobs.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Bergem, B. (2013). Ringvirkningsanalyse av petroleumsklyngen i Kristiansundsregionen: Status 2012 og utsikter frem mot 2020 (Vol. 1306, Rapport (Møreforsking Molde: trykt utg.)). Molde: Møreforsking Molde.

Published October 5, 2018   •   Updated October 9, 2018
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Atlant-Oil established in Kristiansund

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
“Oil fever” gripped Norway in the early 1970s, and a number of small oil companies were established by selling “people’s shares” to the general public. Any and all could by this stock, and the opportunities to cash in were seen as good.
— From Arbeiderbladet 22.11.1973
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Several promoters saw their chance to suck in large amounts of capital from ordinary Norwegians and channel it into exciting offshore projects. Atlant-Oil in Kristiansund was one of these. A separate oil company for the northern Møre region was discussed by the petroleum committee in 1972. This vehicle for small savers would collaborate over work with a larger partner.

Atlant-Oil’s business purpose stated that it would enter into joint ventures with other enterprises engaged in activities directed at exploring for, producing and utilising oil and gas on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). A inter-ministerial committee had proposed Kristiansund in 1972 as a future base port for offshore activity in the Halten Bank area of the Norwegian Sea. The town’s future as mid-Norway’s oil centre was regarded as assured. The initiative to found Atlant-Oil was taken by Rolf Arentz-Hansen, chair of the Kristiansund Commercial Association, Tore Jan Børresen in Kristiansund Finans, William Dall, chair of the local petroleum committee, and lawyer Øistein Selen. Their motive was to highlight interest in a local commitment.

Subscribers to the shares were sought not only in Kristiansund and northern Møre, but also in the neighbouring Trøndelag region. The promoters pointed out that collaboration with companies there would be necessary in the future.

Huge interest was shown in the shares when subscriptions opened on 21 February 1973 – so great that the sale had to be suspended. A ceiling was placed on how many shares any individual could buy. Kristiansund’s town council also subscribed NOK 25 000 (NOK 177 000 in 2017 value).[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen. (1972, 27. desember) Kristiansund skal kjøpe oljeaksjer.

Atlant-Oil held its statutory general meeting in April 1973, when Dall was elected as its first chair.

In October that year, the company entered into a collaboration deal with Det Norske Oljeselskap (DNO), Norway’s first national oil company, whereby DNO would conduct all oil exploration and production for Atlant-Oil. The latter secured the right to a 10 per cent stake in DNO’s future licences, while retaining the ability to pursue independent activities, such as base and service operations.

Founded in 1971, DNO was rooted in the Norwegian shipping community and shipowners Jacob Stolt-Nielsen and Jan Erik Dyvi. Its capital was again raised by selling “people’s shares”. DNO’s future participation in Norway’s offshore sector was blocked by the government’s decision that only three Norwegian companies would be allowed to participate on the NCS. These were state-owned Statoil, partly state-owned Norsk Hydro and privately owned Saga Petroleum.

At the same time as the collaboration deal with DNO was signed, Atlant-Oil increased its share capital from NOK 5 million to NOK 25 million. The company envisaged a bright future, and believed that offshore blocks above the 62nd parallel (the northern limit of the North Sea) would be awarded as early as 1973-74.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen. (1972, 20. desember) Samarbeid Trøndelag – Nordmøre om oljen.
  Atlant-Oil took the initiative to establish Atlantic Supply in 1973. Based in Kristiansund, this limited partnership planned to build two large anchorhandling/supply ships.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Stavanger Aftenblad. (1973, 6. desember). Forsyningsskip fra nytt selskap.

The local Storvik Mekaniske Verksted shipyard secured the fixed price contract for these vessels. At NOK 82 million, this ranked as the largest single order so far awarded in Kristiansund. It soon became clear that collaboration with larger entities would be necessary in order to secure work for the ships from the big international oil companies.

Supply vessel operation became organised on a collaborative basis across the whole North Sea basin, through either joint ownership of vessels or the pooling of tonnage. The two anchorhandlers were placed in Edda Supply Ships, a pool encompassing 12 ships based in Aberdeen. It was organised by Jan Staubo at Helmer Staubo & Co with Victor Schage in Oslo, Johs Østensjø in Haugesund, Johs Presthus in Bergen and Atlantic Supply.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk skipsfartshistorisk selskap. De første forsyningsskip. Hentet fra (publiseringsdato ukjent, lastet ned 10.1.2018)

Big spinoffs were created by the last of these companies in and around Kristiansund. The company did well initially, and controlled six ships at peak with 110 seafarers on its payroll. Then came the downturn. The offshore market slumped in the autumn of 1975, and pessimism proved justified during 1976 as far too many supply ships competed for work.

A lot of them had to laid up for long periods between poorly paid jobs. Although the ordering boom was fortunately over, further pressure was put on the market when 26 newbuildings were delivered during the year.

Demand proved to be strongest for the newest and most powerful vessels, which did relatively well, while the older and simpler ships faced the biggest problems. In the hope of finding better conditions elsewhere, a number of supply ships were transferred to other markets – including Brazil. Norwegian vessels also flooded into the UK market, where they already had a 40 per cent share.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norsk skipsfartshistorisk selskap. De første forsyningsskip. Hentet fra (publiseringsdato ukjent, lastet ned 10.1.2018)

Things improved somewhat after the 1976 crisis. With 70 rigs drilling in the North Sea during the summer of 1977, demand for support ships was better than expected. Again, however, the big vessels were the most attractive and smaller ones did poorly. That trend continued into 1978, when Norway’s supply ship fleet began to slim down. Older units were sold abroad at low prices, and hopes for an improvement started to fade. Some groupings with small vessels retrenched, like Sandøy Supply and Norway Supply.

Johs Larsen and Bjergningskompagniet went into liquidation, while several of the partners in Bugge Supply and Edda Supply pulled out. It was not until the revolution in Iran and Khomeini’s takeover in 1979, with its threat of oil shortages, that optimism began to be restored in the supply ship sector. Atlantic Supply got both its timing and the market wrong. When the Halten Bank was opened for exploration and production in 1980, its supply ship fleet was gone. The local shipowners had lost their assets, and with them went northern Møre’s capital base.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hegerberg, H. (2004). Et stille diplomati : Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund: Kristiansund kommune: 89.

Things did not go any better for Atlant-Oil, with DNO launching what amounted to a coup d’etat at the 1975 annual general meeting. It secured a majority on the supervisory board and ejected the northern Møre members. The Kristiansund company held substantial liquid assets, while DNO had suffered big losses and needed capital. It ignored Atlant-Oil’s regional policy intentions, proposed a merger in the autumn of 1976 and completed this take-over the following spring.

Published October 4, 2018   •   Updated October 5, 2018
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The heliport at Kvernberget

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Oil and gas activities represent the most important industry in Kristiansund. They are also crucial for the town’s airport and not least for the construction and operation of its heliport.
— The heliport in Kristiansund. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

This facility played an important part in the decision which made this mid-Norwegian port an oil centre. It was an important argument for Norske Shell when it resolved to locate the operations office for Draugen there in 1987.

Kristiansund was chosen by the government in 1975 as the main supply base for offshore operations on the Halten Bank in the Norwegian Sea, which was opened for oil activities four years later (see the article about opening the northern NCS).
With the port as the natural starting point for exploration drilling, the need also arose to transport personnel to and from the rigs. The choice of site fell on Kristiansund Airport Kvernberget.

Norway’s Saga Petroleum, as the first company to spud a well in the Norwegian Sea, was contacted at an early stage by Norway’s Helikopter Service company about crew transport.

A collaboration agreement was established in February 1980, and the first flight offshore from Kvernberget went to Saga’s Byford Dolphin rig on 30 June 1980. A Sikorsky Bell 212 machine had the honour of performing this maiden trip. Conditions were poor for both staff and passengers in the early years. Operations began with some prefabricated huts to serve as warehousing, offices, lounge and departure hall. A local subcontractor handled cargo and passengers. Helikopter Service was reluctant to invest in better facilities, given the uncertain prospects.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hegerberg, H. (2004). Et stille diplomati : Oljebyen Kristiansund 1970-2005. Kristiansund: Kristiansund kommune: 128. As activity increased, however, more permanent installations became necessary.
The first helicopter terminal opened in 1981, a temporary structure where the one machine allocated by the company was stationed.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Kristiansund Airport Kvernberget. Documentation for archival conservation. 2010.

A 750-square-metre hangar with space for two helicopters stood ready the following year. That made it possible to do maintenance work on the machines in situ. A 200-square-metre office and workshop wing was also added.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Romsdalsposten. (1982, 13. august) Start på noe som kan vokse seg større. The level of activity increased steadily over the next three years, and Helikopter Service invested in new helicopters. It now had two stationed in Kristiansund.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Tidens Krav. (1984, 8. september) To helikoptre på Kvernberget.

A peak year in this period was 1985, characterised by substantial exploration and drilling work off the Møre and Trøndelag coasts. That was followed by a period from 1986 to 1990 when activity fluctuated. The Storting (parliament) came to the rescue in 1987 by selecting Kristiansund to host the heliport for Draugen as well as the supply base and operations office. The town also landed the base and helicopter transport functions for Heidrun.

Norske Shell entered into a three-year deal with Helikopter Service in 1992 for personnel and cargo flights to and from Draugen, with options for extensions.
More correctly, the contract was actually awarded jointly with Conoco – the first time two oil companies entered into a shared agreement on helicopter transport of freight and passengers on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

Worth NOK 85 million, this job was the largest single offshore contract awarded in Kristiansund until then and allowed Helikopter Service to increase its workforce.
New personnel were recruited and staffing at the heliport increased from 13 to 18 people.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen. (1992, 19. mai) Økt virksomhet i Kristiansund. Installation of the Draugen platform began in 1992, sparking a sharp increase in traffic.

A total of 14 000 passenger journeys were made between Kvernberget and the offshore installations during 1993, making it the third busiest heliport in Norway.And a new helicopter terminal was built in the same year at a cost of almost NOK 15 million.

Battle joined

Although Kvernberget has functioned as the heliport for the Halten Bank/Norwegian Sea since the first wildcat, this does not mean no battles were fought over who should play this role. Some bitterness was expressed in parts of Trøndelag further north in 1980 when Saga picked Helikopter Service and Kvernberget to provide its offshore helicopter services.

It was claimed in several quarters that the Ørland air force base in Sør-Trøndelag county, with its up-to-date outfitting, would have been a more sensible choice.
“It is astonishing, to put it mildly, that one of northern Europe’s largest and most modern air stations should not be considered relevant as a heliport,” commented Arnfinn Astad from Bjung at a meeting of Sør-Trøndelag’s local authorities.
“Nowhere else can match Ørland for the regularity of departures. I believe time will show that a great many of the flights supposed to land at Kvernberget will actually fly via Ørland.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen. (1980, 20. mai) Ørland bør bli helikopterbase.

Parts of Sør-Trøndelag could have done with the economic benefits a heliport would provide. But Saga stuck to its guns and maintained that Kvernberget was the most practical option. This was both because of its proximity to the supply base and not least because the Kristiansund airport had a better-developed network of air services than Ørland.

Nevertheless, the latter did not give up. It got help from Sør-Trøndelag county council, which followed up the issue and proposed Ørland as a heliport to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. But the latter joined with the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in giving the thumbs down. It argued that Kvernberget had fulfilled the heliport function satisfactorily, and that no grounds therefore existed for moving elsewhere.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen. (1984, 6. juni) Ingen Base på Ørlandet.

Several other candidates eventually joined the fray. A recurrent candidate over the next few years was Trondheim Airport Værnes. Even before the location of operations, supply services and heliport for Draugen was debated in the Storting, the struggle between Møre og Romsdal county and Trøndelag was in full swing.
The battle was not only over helicopter flights but also covered all other land-based operations related to oil fields off Møre, Trøndelag and Nordland county.
Norske Shell had made it clear that the company wanted everything to lie in Kristiansund. Since oil from Draugen would be brought ashore by shuttle tanker, a production landfall was not an issue.

Statoil employees at Stjørdal near Værnes took up arms in 1998 with a request that the company began using their local airport as its main base for helicopter flights to/from the Norwegian Sea.

Downgrading the heliports at Kristiansund and Brønnøysund further north to mere support functions would make it easier for the Statoil personnel to get to and from the fields.

At the same time, offshore workers from parts of the country beyond mid-Norway would find travel to Værnes easier since its network of flights was better developed than at Kvernberget. An important argument supporting this request was safety, with Værnes said to have greater aviation technology expertise than the Kristiansund facility. But the proposal was countered precisely on safety grounds. A shift to Trondheim’s airport would mean flying further over land, which could increase the threat of icing.

A report on helicopter transport off mid-Norway had been commissioned from the Sintef research foundation after the Norne accident.[REMOVE]Fotnote: A Helikopter Service machine en route to the Norne production ship crashed in the Norwegian Sea about 100 nautical miles west-north-west of Brønnøysund in 1997. The two pilots and 10 passengers were all killed. This study concluded that the safest option was to fly from either Kvernberget or Brønnøysund. Distances from these two heliports to the installations were also shorter than from Værnes.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen. (1998, 5.mai) Sier nei til helikopterbase på Værnes. But the adherents of the latter did not give up so easily.

Continued campaign

Criticism continued to be voiced about the facilities at Kvernberget. The terminal was small and old-fashioned, and it was nicknamed “Venteberget” (Waiting Hill) – a hopeless place to relax during waits because of a lack of seating. Norway’s Braathens Safe airline discontinued its service between Kristiansund and Trondheim in 2000, giving fresh ammunition to the Værnes campaigners.
Without direct flights, it would be very difficult and extremely expensive for oil workers from Trøndelag to reach the Halten Bank. They had to fly to Kristiansund via Oslo Airport Gardermoen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: NRK. 2002, 30. mai) Ønsker helikopterbase på Værnes.

Former Centre Party leader Johan J Jakobsen now threw himself into the fray. He put a direct question in the Storting to Olav Akselsen, Labour’s petroleum and energy minister, about the possibility of helicopter flights from Værnes to the Halten Bank. Jakobsen emphasised that lack of direct flights to Kristiansund could prevent Trøndelag fabricator Aker Verdal competing for offshore operational and maintenance work. He added that Værnes would not conflict with the Kvernberget heliport, but serve as a supplement.

Akselsen’s response was clear: “Where these issues [the plan for development and operation] are concerned, the government and the operator have decided that helicopter services should be allocated to Kvernberget. That decision stands.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Written question from Johan J Jakobsen (Centre Party) to the minister of petroleum and energy. Document no 15:333 (2000-2001). Submitted 6 April 2001 – answered 24 April 2001 by petroleum and energy minister Olav Akselsen.

Despite the clear statement from the ministry that relocation of the heliport was out of the question, the oil workers pressed yet again for its transfer to Værnes.
They saw a fresh opportunity when the Labour government was replaced by a non-socialist coalition and Christian Democrat Einar Steensnæs became the petroleum and energy minister.

Several unions asked him to take a new look at Værnes as a base for helicopter flights, but yet again without success. Throughout these various rounds over location, Kristiansund and northern Møre fought back with everything they had. That reflected the importance of the heliport for town and region. The position of the heliport to serve oil and gas fields in the Norwegian Sea was enshrined in the licence terms approved by the Storting. Nevertheless, as outlined above, repeated attempts were made by politicians, business interests and oil workers in Trøndelag and Nordland to get this role moved elsewhere. But all these efforts ended up the same way – petroleum and energy ministers have specified, regardless of their political complexion, that the terms set by the Storting remain unchanged.

The oil companies operating in the Norwegian Sea have had the same attitude. Norske Shell has also sided with Kristiansund and made it clear that transferring helicopter services or sharing these with Værnes would be unacceptable. Such support from the operator company and other business players has been important in preserving Kvernberget as the heliport.

Construction delays

But something had to be done about the helicopter facilities at the airport. It lacked sufficient capacity, having been originally built for around 18 000 passengers a year.

By 2005, offshore workers were making almost 70 000 trips annually between Kvernberget and the oil installations in the Norwegian Sea. Planning of a new heliport began as early as 2000, but nothing concrete happened. Kvernberget was finally incorporated in airport owner Avinor’s long-term plans in 2008, but these also suffered delays.

A new runway and a new operations building were completed in 2012. However, a joint terminal for the airport and heliport remains to be constructed. Plans in late 2017 called for work to start on this building in 2018, and the dream is to have it ready for the 50th anniversary of Kristiansund airport in 2020.

Published October 2, 2018   •   Updated October 2, 2018
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Reorganising emergency responsibility

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Overall responsibility for emergency response on Draugen and the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) between 62°N and 65°30’N lay with Kristiansund’s police commissioner from the mid-1980s. But no longer.
— Photo: Kurt Helge Røsand/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The government proposed a new police reform in 2013 which included merging the Nordmøre and Romsdal district with Sunnmøre, with the commissioner moving from Kristiansund to Ålesund.

These plans prompted outrage in Nordmøre and added fuel to the flames of an old local government dispute which has created and continues to maintain dissension in Møre og Romsdal county.

Offshore preparedness

The presence of both Shell and Statoil has helped to propel Kristiansund to the status of the oil centre for this part of Norway. Responsibility for emergency preparedness in the area of the NCS lying roughly between Ålesund to the south and Brønnøysund in the north lay in the town for some three decades.

This region includes such fields as Draugen, Ormen Lange, Åsgard and Njord, as well as the Tjeldbergodden and Nyhamna gas facilities on land. Nordmøre and Romsdal was one on four police districts along the coast responsible for strategic and operational leadership of any incidents arising on an offshore installation.

The others were Rogaland for the NCS south of the 62nd parallel, Helgeland between 65°30’N and 68°30’N and Troms above 68°30’N and the seas outside Svalbard’s territorial waters. Rogaland police district, embracing Stavanger, has also been required to provide assistance in investigating major oil-related incidents above 62°N.[REMOVE]Fotnote: National Police Directorate (2011): PBS 1. Politiets beredskapssystem, del 1. Retningslinjer for politiets beredskap, 103.

Police responsibility

The commissioner is responsible for the exercise of all police powers within their offshore area, and for the commitment of resources required to discharge duties on the NCS. They are also responsible for any post-response investigation.

In addition to preparing an updated plan for offshore emergency response, the offshore police district collaborates with the armed forces in exercises. It maintains contacts with the operator companies and sees to it that they also understand their functions during an actual incident.

The police are also charged with established reception facilities on land in the event of a possible evacuation following an offshore incident. They must keep in regular contact with the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), and have investigating officers with expertise on matters relating to petroleum operations.

Finally, each offshore police district must have service personnel with specialist knowledge for taking over an installation after a possible action phase.

Police reform

The number of Norwegian police districts was reduced from 27 to 12 on 1 January 2016 in what has been called the “close policing” reform.

After Nordmøre and Romsdal was merged with Sunnmøre, as noted above, the National Police Directorate (NPD) wanted the headquarters of the Møre and Romsdal district moved to Ålesund. That came as no surprise. This is the county’s largest town and lies midway between Bergen and Trondheim. The NPD also maintained that it also had the biggest recruitment base. But the question then was where responsibility for petroleum-related incidents off the Møre and Trøndelag coasts should lie.

The government wanted the NCS split between two police districts – south-west run from Stavanger and north from Tromsø – but failed to secure Storting (parliamentary) support.

Offshore responsibility was to continue to be divided between four police districts. But would this remain in Kristiansund or follow the police commissioner to Ålesund? Kristiansund and its hinterland mobilised vigorously to retain the police commissioner and responsibility for offshore emergency preparedness.

A number of consultation responses emphasised the extensive response collaboration built up in the town over 30 years, which made it easy to mobilise resources and expertise. In the event of accidents, moreover, Kristiansund had offshore expertise, a heliport and plans for taking care of possible injured personnel.

This interaction with the offshore industry’s emergency response resources was regarded as significant for the police’s ability to discharge its NCS duties.

In the event of an incident, the companies could quickly install their liaison officers at the police station. This physical presence was important for optimal coordination.

Although the police had and have specialised expertise on petroleum activities, they depend on supplementary knowledge from the industry when accidents occur offshore or at land plants.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Consultation: Norwegian Official Reports (NOU) 2013:9 Ett politi – rustet til å møte fremtidens utfordringer. Comments from Kristiansund local authority and KOM Vekst (Kristiansund and District Industrial Forum) of 3 October 2013; Nordmøre and Romsdal police district of 4 September 2013; Orkide (assembly of council chair and local authority chief administrators in Nordmøre) of 2 October 2013.

The fear was that moving the police commissioner and thereby offshore responsibility would mean a critical loss of special expertise, reduced efficiency, loss of time and increased costs.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Inderhaug, Erik (2016): “Hvordan skal politiet sikre denne?” Politiforum. (published 27 January 2016, downloaded 9 January 2018).

A transfer to Ålesund might sunder strategic and operational leadership in the police from the other response teams for offshore operations.

Staying in Kristiansund would mean that, within a few minutes of an incident on Draugen, the police could be physically present in the second-line response at Norske Shell’s Råket facility. For their part, Ålesund’s supporters argued that emergency response would related in most cases to a serious event which required the police to establish a crisis team.

Where this was led from would be a secondary consideration. The specialist team in Kristiansund could deal with offshore emergency preparedness regardless of where the commissioner sat.

Norske Shell wanted the police in Kristiansund to retain responsibility for offshore preparedness, and responded to the consultation even though it was not formally invited to comment. The company stressed the good collaboration its emergency preparedness team had with the Nordmøre and Romsdal district’s offshore division, and the importance of maintaining this.

It also complained over the lack of specific details on how important considerations were to be handled if the headquarters were transferred to Ålesund.

“Our experience is that the understanding of oil sector processes, planning, emergency organisation and industry terminology enshrined in the operations centre, staff functions and operative response leadership has been positive for handling and investigating incidents on the NCS,” Shell stated.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Inderhaug, Erik (2016): “Hvordan skal politiet sikre denne?” Politiforum. (published 27 January 2016, downloaded 9 January 2018).

“Such expertise is built up through good communication and joint training. We would have wished to see a clarification of how this is envisaged in the future.”

Jobs too

Kristiansund has called on a number of occasions for more government and public sector jobs, and this was highlighted in the consultation response from the Kristiansund and District Industrial Forum (KOM Vekst).

The latter noted that Ålesund and Molde had received 190 and 139 new central government and county council jobs respectively in 2009-13, while the figure for Kristiansund was one.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Consultation: NOU 2013:9 Ett politi – rustet til å møte fremtidens utfordringer ­– KOM Vekst (Kristiansund and District Industrial Forum) of 3 October 2013.

When the town lost out to Molde in the fight over the Nordmøre and Romsdal hospital, the future for many expertise-based jobs vanished from the region.

Against that backdrop, the issue of the police commissioner’s headquarters generated strong feelings in Nordmøre. This involved not only emergency preparedness, but also local employment.

The outcome was that the police commissioner post was transferred to Ålesund together with a substantial number of jobs. A government decision to locate the police pay and accounting centre, with 70 employees, to Kristiansund was therefore perceived as a form of compensation.

That was denied by justice minister Anders Anundsen, who claimed that the move formed part of a 2016 agreement with the Liberal Party on decentralisation of government employment.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Written question from Ingrid Heggø (Labour) to the minister of justice and emergency preparedness. Storting, document no 15:1539 (2015-2016), 9 September 2016.

It quickly became clear that the town would only be getting 50 new jobs, since another department located in Stavanger was taking over part of the police pay function.

To compensate for the “loss” of the 20 promised posts, an equal number of additional jobs were created at the Kristiansund tax office. According to the council, the extra employment more than compensated for the reduction in police posts.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Kristiansund – information publication from Kristiansund local authority. No 7, July 2017.

Published October 1, 2018   •   Updated October 10, 2018
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The Draugen name

person by Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
A competition was staged within the Shell system to come up with a name for its Halten Bank field before it came on stream – and Draugen emerged as the winner.
— Lisa Kristin Haugen, 7 år, fra Ålesund ble vinner av tegnekonkurransen. Hun overrakte selv tegningen til olje- og energiminister Eivind Reiten ved en seremoni i Jåttåvågen.
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Not everyone was equally happy with that. The actual term draug derives from the Norse word draugr, which could originally mean any undead person or phantom.
Myths told along the Norwegian coast also identified the draug as a wraith, whether he lived in a mound (haugbúi in Norse) or emerged to haunt the living. At sea, a draug could warn of death or disaster.

In later folklore, the draug was usually described as the spirit of a fisherman who drowned at sea and had therefore not been buried in Christian soil. He was said to wear oilskins but had a clump of seaweed for a head, sailed half a boat with a ragged sail and was an omen of death for those who saw him – or even sought to pull them under water. He uttered an icy shriek on appearing.

Most of those who saw the draug died, but a story also exists from northern Norway about a local person who defeated the phantom.  Schoolchildren in Møre og Romsdal county were invited in 1991 to take part in a drawing competition to illustrate the Draugen platform. More than 3 000 entries were submitted.
Seven-year-old Lisa Kristin Haugen from Ålesund emerged as the winner, and presented her drawing to petroleum and energy minister Eivind Reiten during a ceremony in Stavanger.

Published October 1, 2018   •   Updated October 1, 2018
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Foundation stone and prized drawing

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Petroleum minister Eivind Reiten had nothing but praise for Norske Shell’s exemplary conduct when he laid the foundation stone for the Draugen platform on 28 August 1990.
— Published in Dagens Næringsliv 29.08.1990
© Norsk Oljemuseum

This ceremony took place at the Norwegian Contractor’s dry dock in Stavanger’s Jåttåvågen suburb, where NC had started work on the platform’s concrete gravity base structure (GBS) a month earlier.

“… An exemplary company on the Norwegian continental shelf [NCS] in terms of collaboration with national industry and not least its close contact with the government,” Reitan declared.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Shell Internt, no 5, September 1990. “Grunnsteinsnedleggelse for Draugen plattformen”.

In his speech, the minister also praised the project as an outstanding example of new technology and advanced solutions in the collaboration between an oil major and Norwegian industry.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Dagens Næringsliv, 29 August 1990. “Grunnsteinen lagt for Draugen”. This festive occasion for Norske Shell and the Draugen project was hardly the appropriate place for analyses or criticism, of course.

Jåttåvågen swarmed with celebrities. In addition to the minister, who hailed from Møre og Romsdal county, a delegation had arrived from Kristiansund with mayor Harald Stokke and chief administrative officer Anton Monge in the lead. International top executives from the Shell system as well as the whole senior management of the Norwegian company and the Draugen operations organisation were also present. In addition, veteran Stavanger politician Arne Rettedal, now chair of Rogaland county council, had the opportunity to add his plaudits for Shell, NC and the field’s operations team.

Show stealer

The show was nevertheless stolen by an eight-year-old girl. Lisa Kristin Haugen from Ålesund had been specially invited to the ceremony after winning a drawing competition.

This contest had been organised by Norske Shell for schoolchildren in Møre og Romsdal, and attracted more than 3 000 entries.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Tidens Krav, 29 August 1990. “Nå kommer Draugen”.

When Lisa Kristin’s class took part, the girl – then seven years old – had no idea where this would lead. The assignment was to draw or paint the draug – a phantom who haunts the living – and she painted this wraith without thinking any more about it.

Local paper Sunnmørsposten visited her class on 15 May 1990 and asked if anyone recognised the painting. Since some time had elapsed, she was unsure whether to raise her hand. “It was pretty overwhelming for a shy seven-year-old to win such a contest, be interviewed by the local paper and attract a lot of attention,” Lisa Kristin now recalls.[REMOVE]Fotnote: E-mail from Lisa Kristin Haugen, dated 31 May 2018.

She won NOK 1 500 – a lot of money for such a young girl at that time. To cap it all, the prize was presented on her eighth birthday. A trip to Stavanger had not been part of the competition, but Lisa Kristin was later invited to pay her first visit to the oil town together with her mother and older brother. During the two-day excursion, the trio was well looked after by Shell representatives. They took them on a tour of the city, and placed them in a hotel with a swimming pool.

Dinner was taken at Cafe de France, the best restaurant in town, where Lisa Kristin was served a specially ordered spaghetti bolognaise, since the rest of the menu was not particularly child-friendly.[REMOVE]Fotnote: E-mail from Lisa Kristin Haugen, dated 31 May 2018.

The Haugen family also attended Stavanger’s ONS oil show, which was perhaps more interesting for her four-year-older brother. Then came the foundation stone ceremony. Such events can be fairly tedious for a young girl. But she was eventually introduced to Reiten and had a good story to tell her class back home.
Dressed in national costume, she came up on the stage and presented the framed original painting to the minister for hanging in his office.

As a memento, she received a porcelain model of the Draugen platform as well as a video and photographs from the ceremony and from the presentation of her artwork. It has not been possible to establish where Lisa Kristin’s painting is now to be found.

Published October 1, 2018   •   Updated October 2, 2018
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Petoro – a state-owned partner

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Petoro is a partner in the Draugen licence, with a 47.88 per cent stake at April 2018. This state-owned company manages the government’s own oil-related holdings.
— Petoro's logo
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The state’s direct financial interest (SDFI) covers shares in production licences, fields, pipelines and land-based plants associated with the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

petoro en statlig partner, illustrasjon, engelsk
Petoro's organizational chart. Illustration: Petoro

This makes the government a participant in its own right in the oil industry, and the assets involved include a third of Norway’s petroleum reserves. Although precluded from acting as an operator, Petoro otherwise works like any other oil company where the aim is to maximise revenues for its owner – in this case the state. But it differs from other players in that it is only a manager, not the actual licensee on the NCS. It administers the SDFI holdings which belong to the state.
Petoro therefore receives no revenues from the SDFI, nor does it contribute to any investment. All income and costs generated by the state’s interests are channelled over the government budget.

As the actual licensee, the government must meet its share of investment and costs while receiving a comparable share of revenues from each asset.
Petoro’s own operating costs are met by annual appropriations from the government. Nor does it sell the petroleum produced. This is done by Equinor (ex Statoil) together with its own output.

The Petoro name combines petra, meaning stone, or petroleum, which means “rock oil” and oro, meaning gold.


Petoro was founded on 9 May 2001, but the company’s history actually goes back in many ways to the original creation of the SDFI in 1985. Discussion raged in the early 1980s about state oil company Statoil’s rapid growth to a dominant position in Norway’s petroleum industry and the Norwegian economy in general. The non-socialist coalition led by Kåre Willoch was concerned about this relatively young enterprise being responsible for such as large part of the government’s revenues.
A broad compromise negotiated between the Willoch government and the Labour Party included transferring about 50 per cent of Statoil’s licence holdings to what became known as the SDFI.

The state had previously had interests in production licences, but through Statoil. These were now split into an SDFI share and one retained by the company.
That meant the state became the direct holder of shares in oil and gas fields, pipelines and land-based plants. The percentage size of these holdings varied from asset to asset.

Subsequently, the SDFI has been given its own share in new offshore licences awarded by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. The main purpose of this change was to separate the cash flows which would otherwise have gone to Statoil, and channel one part of them directly to the Treasury. To achieve this, the state had to become a direct licensee on the NCS with a corresponding responsibility for investment and operating costs, and exposure to risk.

The civil service was not geared to running commercial activities on the scale required by the SDFI. Statoil was accordingly asked to administer these interests.
That system persisted until the oil company was partially privatised in 2001. During this period, the SDFI was pretty anonymous. Both partners and the public saw only Statoil.

The management system involved the state company selling the SDFI’s oil and gas together with its own – a solution which has continued after Petoro was established.

In connection with Statoil’s stock market listing in 2001, the responsibility for running the SDFI portfolio was transferred to Petoro. But the Storting (parliament) imposed restrictions on the latter’s operations. As noted above, it is not allowed to be an operator. Its workforce was also restricted to 60 people – the new company was not intended to grow into another Statoil.

The latter merged in 2007 with the oil and energy division of Norsk Hydro, and the ceiling on Petoro’s staffing was lifted. It would now need to do more technical and commercial work itself.

petoro en statlig partner, logo, engelsk,
StatoilHydro's logo


Pursuant to the regulations, one of Petoro’s duties as a licensee both on Draugen and elsewhere is to ensure that the operator runs a field in a prudent and efficient manner. That applies not least to such areas as health, safety and the environment (HSE), where Petoro – like all licensees – is required to promote continued progress on the NCS.

petoro en statlig partner, logo, , engelsk,
Petroleum Safety Authority Noway's logo

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), responsible for supervising HSE in Norway’s oil sector, conducted audits of Petoro as a licensee in 2002 and 2015.
Covering the company’s whole involvement on the NCS, the 2002 check left the regulator with a “positive impression”. Petoro had a functioning HSE management system, it found.  In addition, the PSA established that the company discharged its duty of seeing to it that the operator acted properly, and had an active and conscious attitude to its role as licensee.

petoro en statlig partner, engelsk,
Health and safety regulations are strictly followed offshore. The right gear and equipment must be used at all times. Photo: Shadé Barka Martins/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The 2015 audit looked on Petoro’s role in the Draugen licence and also covered Norske Shell as the operator. No nonconformities or improvement points were found on this occasion either. “Our general impression … was that management at both Norske Shell and Petoro covering the subjects of the audit are satisfactory, and no breaches of the regulations were found,” the PSA report states. “Nor were any improvement points identified.”

It appears that Petoro does its job as partner and manager of the SDFI well. That is important when the company ranked in 2018 as by far the largest company on the NCS in terms of oil and gas output. Through Petoro, the state has direct interests in 203 production licences, 39 producing fields and 16 partnerships for pipelines and land-based plants. Net cash flow from the SDFI in 2018 is estimated at NOK 77.4 billion.

Published October 1, 2018   •   Updated October 19, 2018
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Christmas on Draugen

person Per Sælevik, Norske Shell
Draugen has always been a place where humour has played its part in the working environment, and made an important contribution to wellbeing on board.
— Christmas tree in the mess, 2006. Photo: A/S Norske Shell/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Every Christmas, the tradition has been to bring out a wife or partner as a surprise from one of those required to spend the festive season offshore. “Smuggling in” the person concerned without being spotted is a fairly difficult operation.
Gunnar Sembsmoen’s wife had been picked out one year. He knew nothing about it, and – in line with tradition – she was due to be revealed during the coffee break on 23 December. She had been installed in a large cardboard box, which was then taped securely shut, placed on a trolley and wheeled into the dayroom.

The next step was to draw the name of the lucky winner who got to open the package. Everyone on board was present and an expectant mood prevailed.
The hat used for the draw contained 20 slips – all with Gunnar’s name on them. “And the lucky winner is Gunnar Sembsmoen,” the offshore installation manager duly cried.

Gunnar stepped forward and, before anyone could stop him, pulled out his Leatherman knife, drove it into the cardboard and sliced open the package. The whole audience gasped.

His wife then jumped out, unhurt. Gunnar was left completely flabbergasted, but recovered to give his wife a good welcoming hug to great applause from the whole room.

jul på draugen,
A visit from Santa is allways fun. Christmas at Draugen 2003. Photo: Unknown/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Published October 1, 2018   •   Updated October 3, 2018
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