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Arve, the Architect

50 years ago, Statoil's first employee, Arve Johnsen, realized that no one can create the future alone. That (lesson) is just as important today.

When Arve Johnsen entered the office in Stavanger for the very first time, he stared into an empty room. He was the first and only employee of Statoil. While standing in the doorway, a few important thoughts struck him.

I have to think about safety. I have to think about research. And I have to think about development.

The following thoughts were more tangible.

Where do I get people for the management team, and not least: Where should I go to find furniture for the first board meeting?

This was 50 years ago, on 1 December 1972, barely three years after the first commercially viable oil discovery in the North Sea. It was no coincidence that Arve Johnsen became the first employee. As state secretary in Norway's ministry of industry, he was one of the main architects behind the company established to ensure that the nation's natural resources benefited all of Norwegian society.

Arve Johnsen

  • Born 18 February 1934 in Borre, Vestfold
  • As State Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, he was one of the main architects behind the establishment of Statoil and a natural candidate as the company's first CEO
  • Was Statoil's CEO from 1972 to 1988 and developed Statoil into a company of international dimensions
  • Known as a foresighted pioneer and a significant leader in the Norwegian oil industry

Source: Norwegian biographical encyclopedia

The difference between the impossible and the possible is just a matter of time

Arve Johnsen

Statoil was established, with Arve as CEO. Arve managed to find the people he was looking for. Those who dared to think great thoughts. Those who understood him when he said that the difference between the impossible and the possible is just a matter of time. And those who understood that cooperation with others – politicians, local communities, and industry players – would be crucial. And that's how the story went: In close collaboration, the industry that made Norway a wealthy country was built. Everything was in line with Arve's thoughts when he first stood there in Stavanger: Safety, research, and development.

But what now?

Arve Johnsen was the first CEO of Statoil, Equinor’s forerunner. The first office was in an apartment in Stavanger.
Photo: Knut S. Vindfallet

We are now facing the biggest challenge of our time – the climate crisis. Equinor's ambition is to keep supplying energy to society with an increasingly lower footprint and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Together we will develop new energy and new industries. To achieve this, we must still dare to think great thoughts. We will have to see opportunities, not obstacles, in the energy transition. The little amount of time we've got must be spent well. We need to work together. Arve's legacy must be continued.

This is one of many stories from our first 50 years. It is also part of the story of how we will succeed with the energy transition.

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