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"Carbon Knut"

“Carbon Knut” has a black belt in energy efficiency

Now, the goals that he and the rest of the world need to achieve by 2050 are more important than ever.

"When I show up, everyone knows what’s on the agenda".

Knut Simon Helland smiles from ear-to-ear. Among his 20,000 colleagues he is best known as “Carbon Knut”.

He doesn’t remember where he was that day in 2014 when his boss called, he just remembers the feeling.

Knut had been with the company for one year, working with compressors. The price of oil was on the verge of collapsing - from levels far exceeding USD 100, shrinking to less than 40. Global consumption was at record levels according to numbers from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

A few years earlier, through the Kyoto Protocol, large parts of the world had committed to cutting total emissions by at least five per cent from the 1990 levels. And this had to happen between 2008 and 2012.

We were in the second phase of the Protocol and Norway had committed to cutting CO₂ by 30 per cent compared with the 1990 level. Never before had emissions been more costly, particularly with oil prices in freefall.

Over the phone, Knut’s boss gave him a new assignment - to lead Equinor’s energy network and ensure emission cuts from Norwegian platforms equivalent to 800,000 tonnes. Every year. By 2020. The challenge was part of a joint initiative from Konkraft, an arena for collaboration between Norwegian Oil and Gas, the Federation of Norwegian Industries, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), including LO associations Fellesforbundet and Industri Energi.

"That’s when I started to really feel the pressure", says Knut.

More than 600 initiatives

Together with the network, he made a plan. And the plan was to break everything down to the most minute level, so far down that every single colleague could see how they themselves had an impact on total emissions. Knut became a “carbon missionary”. More than 134 initiatives were implemented. Today, the number of initiatives has exceeded 600.

"I travelled and engaged in discussions, analysed energy consumption and examined what could be done along with my colleagues on the platforms".

It paid off. Two and a half years early, Knut and his colleagues achieved the goal. In 2017, Knut received the Enova Award for leading this team effort.

"He has a black belt in energy efficiency", said Tommy Johnsen, head of the NOx Funds, honouring Knut during the Enova Award ceremony. Enova is owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment and works to promote Norway’s transition to a low-emission society.

And things have just continued to decline ever since, in a positive sense. Through the Paris Agreement, the worldwide community has committed to new and even more ambitious climate goals - to limit the increase in average global temperature to no more than two degrees – preferably lower.

So far, emissions from Norwegian platforms have been reduced from 8.8 million tonnes of CO₂ in 2008 to 7.4 million tonnes in 2021. This represents an annual decline of 1.4 million tonnes.

The goals that the world, Knut and all of Equinor are working tirelessly to achieve are more important than ever; by 2050, the entire carbon footprint must disappear.

Approved transition plan

Three historical things happened over the course of just one week in May:

  • The Norwegian government announced new targets for offshore wind and will facilitate production corresponding to nearly the entire nation’s consumption by 2040.
  • The largest carbon storage agreement to date in the North Sea was signed between a UK waste management company and Northern Lights, which develops solutions for carbon capture and storage.
  • At Equinor’s general meeting, the Board approved the company’s very first energy transition plan.

This transition plan is an overview of stepwise goals and concrete measures that Equinor will implement on the journey towards a zero-emission society in 2050.

"The road ahead is important, even though we are already delivering oil production with the world’s best, and smallest, CO₂ footprint. But still, we have a veritable powerhouse of goals for the future", says Knut.

He believes in the importance of having an open mind and making good use of the available technology on the journey towards 2050.

"As we have seen, energy management has gotten us far. However, we need to keep an open mind. In addition to electrification, we could for example convert to carbon-free fuels, like hydrogen or ammonia. This could be the right call in some cases. For other types of consumption, offshore wind could be perfect", he says.

Stripping down to the essentials

Stripping away “everything unnecessary” and constantly challenging each other to do better is something everyone can do, according to the energy guru.

"Incentives from the authorities are important, but private individuals’ willingness to pay is key", says Knut.

Erik Vikane, Head of Energy and Low Carbon in Equinor, confirms that cooperation is more important than ever. He praises his colleagues, both in the energy network and elsewhere in Equinor, for their passion and dedication.

"They have been very eager to implement measures and the level of creativity has been impressive, evidenced by the sheer number of measures. Continued efforts are more important than ever. We encourage everyone to continue suggesting measures, both small and large, that can reduce our consumption", he says.

Knut agrees, saying that "the day we say ‘good enough’, is the first day things start to go downhill". He takes a sip of his coffee.

"Did you know we use more than one million paper cups per year just at the Bergen office? I have suggested that we switch to reusable cups and give half the money we save to the company sports programmes, and invest the other half in solar cell panels on the rooftop".

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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