High-level visit to Hydro platform
A three-day long official state visit from Austria was rounded off on Thursday with visits to Hydro in Bergen and to the Oseberg Field Centre in the North Sea, where the Norwegian royal couple and the Austrian President and his wife gained an insight into Norwegian offshore activities and technology.
Norway’s King Harald and the Austrian Federal President, Dr. Heinz Fischer, flew out to Oseberg Field Centre by helicopter in the morning, while Norway’s Queen Sonja and the Austrian President’s wife, Margit Fischer, were given a tour of Hydro’s Research Centre at Sandsli in Bergen.
In his speech during the gala banquet at the Palace in Oslo two days earlier, King Harald did not hide his expectations of the visit to Hydro:
"Clearly, Norway is following with interest the large investments made by Austrian energy companies further east in Europe. Austria is also an oil-producing country, of course, and we are both dependent on advanced horizontal drilling techniques for our oil production. This means that I envisage that we will have an extremely interesting and useful programme in Bergen on Thursday, with a visit to an oil platform in the North Sea and to Hydro’s Research Centre at Sandsli," King Harald commented.
Given a run-through of safety procedures
The Austrian President and the Norwegian King arrived at Oseberg at around 12:30, along with Hydro’s President and CEO, Eivind Reiten.
After putting on the survival suits that were used for the helicopter trip, platform manager Torkjell Stangeland gave the visitors an introduction, and ran through safety procedures. Reiten presented Hydro, and particularly emphasized Norway’s role as a large and reliable gas supplier to Europe.
Reiten also talked of Hydro’s increasing gas production, and pointed out that a portion of this gas goes to Austria. Jokingly, he added that the Austrian President could now see with his own eyes that Hydro has something to put in the pipes, before the gas is transported down to Austria.
Sending gas to Austria
Hydro’s Senior Vice President for Oseberg, Jan Arve Haugan, gave a presentation of the Oseberg area, among other things showing how gas production from this field will increase during the years ahead.
Gas exports from Oseberg will peak between the years 2013-2018, at a level of around nine billion cubic metres annually. The Austrian President was able to see how the gas production benefits Austrian consumers thanks to the subsea pipelines to Germany, followed by transportation across Germany by land to Austria.
Hydro has a gas deliveries contract with the Austrian company OMV, which is the leading oil and gas group in Central Europe. The duration of this contract is from 1986 to 2026. Austria imports almost 1.5 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Norway, of which 10 percent comes from Hydro. Norwegian gas constitutes around 10 percent of total gas imports to Austria.
The Austrian President was very curious about the technology for extracting oil and gas, and he asked a number of questions.
After the presentations, the guests were served lunch, before President Fischer and King Harald were given a guided tour of Oseberg Field Centre – having first been provided with protective equipment. On the guided tour, they visited all three platforms connected together by bridges, which together make up Oseberg Field Centre. Here they were able to see the processing plant on the Oseberg A platform, and the gas plant on Oseberg D, where gas exports from Oseberg Field Centre begin their journey, before finally reaching consumers in Austria and other European countries.
Finally, the tour led the visitors to the drill floor on Oseberg B, where Hydro is in the process of drilling a well down into the Shetland Chalk formation – a well there is much excitement about within Hydro.
The helicopter departure from the platform was, according to the itinerary, scheduled for 16:15. In Bergen, the Austrian state visit was due to be rounded off with a concert at Troldhaugen, the former home of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, for the presidential and royal couples.