The helicopter carrying the heads of Nato and the European Fee flew in thick cloud off the Norwegian coast, proper till it reached the Troll fuel platform when the sky brightened up nearly miraculously.
Troll, Norway’s largest gasfield, has actually proved its value to Europe in latest months, offering about 10 per cent of the fuel wants of the continent, together with the UK. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the fee, and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg got here as a lot to thank Norway for rising the circulate of fuel to get by way of a tough winter as ship a message to Russia to not try to sabotage any North Sea infrastructure.
The hosts on the platform — Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre, and Equinor chief government Anders Opedal — had been all smiles as they took their two company 300 metres beneath sea stage to the underside of one of many platform shafts. However behind the bonhomie, there are additionally large variations in emphasis on what the vitality future may seem like.
Because the begin of the Ukraine conflict, Norway has displaced Russia as Europe’s largest supply of fuel. Together with its principal oil and fuel group, state-controlled Equinor, Norway has argued more and more that it’s the democratic supplier of option to the continent. For years, it had sought to place itself as having the ability to ship barrels of oil with one of many lowest carbon footprints on the planet (if that isn’t an oxymoron). Now, it has hit on this new argument to face out from extra autocratic suppliers akin to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s a actuality, it speaks for itself,” stated Støre because the North Sea wind buffeted the platform, pointing to figures exhibiting Norway now provides 30 to 40 per cent of Europe’s fuel. “Norway is a Nato ally, a democratic accomplice and that brings stability and predictability each to Europe and the UK.”
Equinor could also be investing in wind energy and different inexperienced know-how, but it surely additionally sees a good future for gas and oil. Opedal pointedly stated on the platform that Troll would proceed producing past 2050, which is the goal date for the EU to be carbon impartial.
Oil and fuel exploration in Norway continues nearly unabated regardless of a authorities settlement with a small leftwing social gathering to not open up any new areas throughout this parliamentary time period. In January, Oslo provided a file variety of blocks in present areas within the Arctic for firms to discover.
Europe is grateful within the brief time period for Norway’s elevated fuel manufacturing prior to now yr. Von der Leyen repeatedly gave because of “our associates” in Norway whereas on the platform. However the EU’s overarching present objective is to realize internet zero emissions and so it desires to speed up its push in direction of inexperienced applied sciences, placing an emphasis on the likes of wind energy and hydrogen slightly than fuel within the mid to long run. “After all, the longer term is renewables,” stated von der Leyen.
That results in some tensions within the discussions. Individuals concerned in negotiations between Norway and Europe say the EU seems reluctant to decide to giant fuel volumes for a protracted interval. Norway would ideally additionally prefer to get an EU imprimatur for its aggressive petroleum plans within the Arctic, recognising that now could be its time of most leverage given Europe’s thirst for fuel.
Støre is eager to current a unique facet of Norway, too. His authorities speaks warmly about offshore wind, although Norway vastly lags behind different North Sea international locations such because the UK and Denmark on this.
He additionally talks up the prospects for carbon seize and storage. An early Norwegian try at this failed. However a number of efforts together with one involving Equinor within the North Sea are actually going down. Lastly, Norway is pushing hydrogen. Ultimately, it will likely be so-called inexperienced hydrogen made utilizing renewable vitality. However, earlier than that, Oslo is closely backing blue hydrogen the place fuel is used and the carbon captured and saved.
“All that would be the future; fuel is the transition know-how,” stated Støre. Inside a couple of years, he added that it could be doable to spy offshore wind farms inside a kilometre or two of Troll whereas carbon could be injected into the seabed an identical distance away.
However standing on a platform that also earns about $80mn a day at present fuel costs, there’s a sense that Norway has little incentive to show its again prematurely on the business that made it wealthy, at the same time as curiosity in inexperienced vitality rises. There may be little doubt that this sector will keep profitable within the brief run however questions abound over whether or not Norway is shifting quick sufficient for its longer-term future.