Russia's Prime Minister to visit the Ormen Lange plant at Aukra

March 27, 2006, 10:30 CEST

A visit to Hydro's land-based facility for gas from the huge Ormen Lange field is to be a key item on the itinerary when Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov comes to Norway on Tuesday for an official visit.

The Russian Prime Minister has been invited by his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg, who will be host during the visit. As soon as he arrives at Gardermoen on Tuesday morning, Fradkov will travel up to Aukra in the county Møre and Romsdal, where Hydro is building the processing plant for the Ormen Lange gas. In Aukra, Prime Minister Fradkov and the Russian delegation will meet Hydro's President and CEO Eivind Reiten, and President and CEO of Statoil Helge Lund, as well as – among others – Tore Torvund, Executive Vice President in Oil & Energy in Hydro, and Senior Vice President Bengt Lie Hansen, head of Hydro's Shtokman project.

Both Hydro and Statoil are hoping for assignments in connection with the development of the large offshore field Shtokman in the Russian part of the Barents Sea, and both companies have reached the Russian operator Gazprom's so-called "shortlist" of possible partners in developing the gas field.

In its project work for Shtokman, Hydro has emphasized the company's long-standing experience with handling large development projects on land and at sea – and not least the unique technology and expertise that lies behind the development of Ormen Lange. In Hydro's view, the Ormen Lange concept of subsea installations can also be used on Shtokman. And this is undoubtedly the background for the Russian interest in visiting the location where the Ormen Lange gas will be brought to land and processed, before being transported onwards, through the world's longest subsea gas pipeline, across the North Sea to England. When Ormen Lange comes on stream next year, the field will be able to cover a fifth of the UK's gas requirements for many years to come.

In connection with the Russian visit, Governor Yury Evdokimov, from the county administration for Murmansk Province, will visit Hydro's office complex at Sandsli in Bergen. Sandsli is the company's operational centre for its offshore activities, and in addition the centre has extensive activities within petroleum research. Earlier this year, Hydro established its own representational office in Murmansk, and has started up centres in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk for developing the Russian supplier industry, which is to supply the offshore industry. At Sandsli, Evdokimov will visit the Research Centre, and gain an insight into Hydro's oil-related research, including the three dimensional "Cave", where seismic data is analysed in order to find oil and gas reservoirs and optimal paths for wells.

Close links to Russia span many decades

Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov is not the first Russian premier to visit Hydro and the company's activities in Norway. Hydro has had close connections to Russia for many decades, and has developed good traditions for receiving important and key people from Norway's large neighbour in the East.

This follows as a natural consequence of, inter alia, the business area Oil & Energy's many activities in Russia, through ownership stakes in oil and gas fields, technical cooperation across the country borders, and separate Hydro offices both in Murmansk and Moscow. Within Hydro's other large business area, Aluminium, the connections include both the purchase and selling of metal products, and cooperation on the technology front. For example, Hydro and the aluminium company Rusal have cooperated on opening a new foundry in Sayanogorsk in Siberia. With Hydro's foundry expertise as its starting point, the plant is increasing its production of high quality press bolts.

Khrushchev, Gromyko and Ryzhkov

For many decades – before Hydro's agricultural business was separated out and moved to the independent company Yara International – Hydro bought raw materials for its fertilizer production from Russia: apatite, phosphate, calcium and ammonia. Among those who worked in fertilizer production at the company's largest workplace in 1964 – Herøya in Porsgrunn – there are many who still remember a highly unusual and colourful visit. Not only did Norway's Prime Minister of many years Einar Gerhardsen come to visit, but also the Soviet Union's Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and the Premier of the USSR himself, Nikita Khrushchev.

Khrushchev is probably the one who will be remembered best. His behaviour was quite impulsive, and he happily marched straight out into the crowd of spectators to shake people's hands. This made him extremely popular, but seemed to drive the security guards to despair.

In 1993, Norway's then Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland hosted Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov's visit to Norway. He visited both Hydro's aluminium works at Karmøy, and the Hydro-operated Oseberg field in the North Sea. It was incidentally during this visit that Ryzhkov pointed out that he was the only head of the Kremlin to have seen a Norwegian oil rig. And he added:

"I am convinced that we Russians won't manage to extract a single cubic metre of gas from the world's largest gas field Shtokmanovskoje in the Barents Sea before we manage to connect up to Norwegian industrial expertise and international investment capital."