“If I want to have any influence over climate change, I must be where decisions are made.”

Two years ago, 25-year-old Ragni Rørtveit openly criticised the oil and gas industry. Today, she’s working for Equinor. What happened, and how does she justify her decision?

Finding the balance in the world's energy mix is important. Emissions will decrease as world energy needs increase. This article discusses how Equinor thinks when they now go from being an oil and gas company to becoming a broad energy company.

“I hope I can help to make us a bit tougher and more ambitious to invest in new projects,” she says.  

In 2016, Rørtveit was one of eight socially-engaged young thinkers who lent their voices to the youth debate series “When good advice is young.” There she shared her critical views of the oil and gas industry and challenged Equinor's Executive Vice President for the Norwegian Shelf about the company’s business.

After growing up in Bergen, she has been accepted for Equinor’s graduate programme and will be assigned several different roles in the company over the next two years.

We show her the video recording of herself where she is critical to her current employer.

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Ragni watches a video recording of herself in 2016 in which she criticised the Statoil management for lack of ambition.

Ragni Rørtveit

25 years old, from Bergen

Educated Civil Engineer in Marine Engineering at NTNU in Trondheim

Employed in Equinor since the Autumn of 2017

Two years ago, you said it was a weak argument to say that the world needs oil, and with Norwegian oil being the cleanest, we should continue with production. Has your position changed since then?

“I think Equinor has taken some strategic choices that go in a new direction. And I think it's important that we, who are going to work with energy in the future, dare to think afresh. As I see it, it’s not production of oil and gas that’s the main cause of climate change, although we still have a long way to go to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. It’s more about the fact that we’re so dependent on coal, oil and gas on the consumer side. Major players like Equinor will play a key role in how the future of energy will look, she says.

Coal, oil and gas account for 82 percent of the world's energy consumption, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In addition, world energy demand is expected to increase by 2050.

You also criticised a lot of Statoil's marketing for having nothing to do with the product being delivered. Now they have changed name to Equinor. What do you think of that?

“I think it’s exciting and that it shakes the system up a bit. Balance is an important part of the new name, and for me, that balance is about how ambitious you must be to get where you want to go, and still do it in a responsible way.

Rørtveit says she thinks that her commitment to climate is pretty much in line with most young people of her age: she sorts her waste, and doesn’t let her car idle. She’s no fanatic in one direction or other, but she cares about the environment at an overall level

“I have a pragmatic approach to climate challenges. I don’t think it’s a question of shutting down production and ceasing to operate as we do today. That’s simply not realistic. To me, it’s important to find the balance between the traditional and the renewable energy sources on our way to the zero-emission society,” she says.

The oil and gas industry is among the world’s worst emitters, and Equinor will continue to be part of that industry in the future. How can you be concerned about climate and still work in Equinor?

“I don’t see that as a problem. I think we must have some oil and gas on the road to the zero-emission society. And then I think that if I am to have any influence on climate challenges and what direction they are moving, I must be where decisions are made and where developments are taking place.

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What’s your view on Equinor planning to commit 15-20 percent of investments on new energy solutions leading up to 2030 is that enough?

“To me it’s important that we don’t get hung up on a particular percentage. I think we need to be flexible if more opportunities with new energy solutions arise, and then adjust the investments accordingly,” says Rørtveit.

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In the Norwegian town of Florø on the west coast there’s an example of a new energy solution: the big green supply vessel Havila Charisma is moored at the quayside. Its task is to supply Equinor oil platforms with equipment, food, beverages, pipes and fuels—among other things. Supply ships like this normally run on diesel or fuel oil—but the Havila Charisma is somewhat different.

Kristin Aamodt explains.

“This ship has a battery pack installed. It allows you to use the diesel engine much more efficiently when you are out at sea, meaning lower CO2 emissions, lower fuel costs and less maintenance of the engines. And complete quiet when lying in harbour, since you can turn off all the engines, connect to shore and charge the battery using Norwegian hydropower,” she says, standing in the drizzle.

Kristin Aamodt heads up STI, a department in Equinor whose task is to nurture ideas from small companies. They invest in cutting-edge technology and help small entrepreneurs to get their products out of the market.

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Kristin Aamodt shows the battery packs to Ragni Rørtveit

“A shipowner can save 25 to 30 percent in fuel costs, and they can save between 15 to 20 percent of their maintenance expenses by installing a battery pack. Hybridization of one single supply vessel is the same as taking 1000 cars off Norwegian roads,” says Aamodt.

It’s now a requirement that all Norwegian supply vessels with long-term contracts with Equinor have such battery packs installed. Aamodt believes it is crucial to bear two things in mind at the same time when planning today's and future energy needs:

"We must be able to build a renewable energy initiative, while continuing to develop oil and gas in an efficient, sustainable and safe manner. And that's exactly what's so cool about this ship. It’s a vessel that travels out to oil platforms using new battery technology that reduces CO2 emissions. In a sense, it’s a meeting of two worlds here.

Wouldn’t Equinor make more profit if all transport ran on traditional fuels?

“No, actually we wouldn’t,” says Aamodt. “We’re using less fuel and reducing fuel consumption, not only because it saves us money, but also because it reduces CO2 emissions. For example, in Equinor’s supply chain since 2011, the emissions equivalent of 166,000 cars has been saved by adopting measures like this. It’s been possible because of far-sighted people in our own organisation, innovation from entrepreneurial companies, and support from schemes such as the NOx fund and ENOVA.

As well as working on future energy solutions, Aamodt has worked as operations manager on an oil platform in the North Sea for three years. After seeing both sides of the business, she is clear about one thing:

“I am very concerned about the climate challenges we face and what we release in the air, at sea and on land. And I think that the closer you are to the challenges, the closer you are to the solutions, and your ability to influence is greater, she says.

Can you expand on that?

“By working in a company that has sufficient muscle and ambition, I can influence the technology we choose to invest in, and help change the energy industry. Battery technology is one example,” says Aamodt.

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Kristin Aamodt

Age 39 years, lives in Oslo

Educated civil engineer in biotechnology at NTNU in Trondheim

Has 15 years of experience from oil and gas, renewable energy, biotechnology and venture capital.

Leads STI in Equinor, which invests in entreprenuerial companies with new technology.

Meanwhile, on the deck of Havila Charisma, Ragni Rørtveit is asking questions of the crew. She’s currently working on ship technology and marine systems in Equinor, before moving on to another department after the summer. She’s very enthusiastic about the battery initiative.

“Now we’re on board a ship that really does something innovative, I feel this is an excellent first step and that successful measures like these are contagious. And you want to take it to the next level,” she smiles.

“I get very motivated when I see this and think there are new opportunities that we didn’t know we had 10 years ago. And I look forward to seeing what we can find in 10 years’ time,” says Rørtveit.

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