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.
From apprentice to manager. 50 years in the industry
Dag Thygesen represents a large piece of Norwegian industrial history – in person. For 50 years, he has worked at Equinor and in companies that have become part of Equinor.
“I remember how special it was to enter such a large industrial area. Everything was so new when we first came here, and the people here had years of experience in what was about to be done.”
Dag Thygesen remembers when he opened the gate to the operating facility at Herøya in Porsgrunn for the first time on 7 August 1972. Hydro had about 5,000 employees here at the time, and it was an enormous workplace. Thygesen was a student at Hydro's business school. He had chosen a different direction from his friends – instead of applying to upper secondary school, he had become an apprentice in laboratory science. 50 years later, with 50 years of industry experience, he still does not regret his choice. Now his workplace is part of Equinor after the merger with Hydro's oil division.
Manual to automated
Thygesen has been at the centre of the development of what became Norway's most important industry and an essential part of how we finance our welfare state. He has witnessed how Equinor and the industry have developed over five decades. He has been part of the entire industrial journey from a pure oil and gas company to a broad energy company. Today, he is the manager of the operating facility in Porsgrunn.
He explains that it is mainly within analytics that the technology and methods have changed but that the control systems and safety monitoring have improved much on the process side.
"We have operated, maintained and developed the facility as we thought was best, and although much has changed over the years, it has worked. Measuring techniques and instrumentation were manual when I started; we had to learn everything from scratch in the laboratory. Although we still carry out some analyses ‘the old-fashioned way’, the 5,000 automated measuring points at the plant mainly give us the information we need now. This means that we can work much faster than before, but the most important thing is that our data and results are of higher quality. It is alpha and omega for us; we must produce good data for the research community,” says Thygesen.
A world-class test facility
He has been at the plant for almost all of the fifty years, except for a year and a half during the 1980s, when he, like so many others at the time, travelled out into the North Sea. He had received an offer to run the laboratory on the Brage platform, which he thought seemed exciting. But with small children at home and a spouse who also worked a lot, it became difficult, and Thygesen chose to return to Porsgrunn again.
“What I am most proud of throughout all these years is that we have never compromised on safety to achieve anything. The people here have always come first. Everything else has been unacceptable,” says Thygesen.
He has been involved in building a world-class test facility, and over a billion NOK has been invested. It has been used to test separation and technical solutions for transporting various combinations of oil, gas and water in the same pipe – so-called multiphase transport. That is why one of the test rigs is called “Flerfaseriggen” – the multiphase rig. In many ways, it is the “heart” of Equinor’s operations in Porsgrunn.
Herøya Industrial Park
- Equinor's activities in Herøya Industrial park in Porsgrunn include research, technology, project activities and support services.
- In total, there are around 210 employees, of whom 120 are associated with the research unit.
- The multiphase rig is the flagship of the test area, which is one of the world's leading research centres of its kind.
- The research centre particularly focuses on separation and process technology, multiphase technology and gas technology.
Four men with almost 200 years in the company
The multiphase rig has been continuously modified since it was built in 1994, and the large-scale testing carried out here has played an essential role in the company’s global oil and gas activities.
“So much has happened in oil and gas, but also with the new exciting business areas in which we have invested heavily in recent years. We are facing a new era, and it will probably be as exciting as it was starting with oil and gas.”
On Herøya, there are 7-8 test rigs. Among them is one that is of great importance to Equinor’s investment in CO2 capture and storage.
Soon Thygesen will join the ranks of the pensioners. It is a strange thought that the 67-year-old has already dismissed several times.
“Looking around me right now, I see three of my colleagues. In total, we have worked here for almost 200 years. Although we are not indispensable, a lot of competence and experience disappears when my age group retires. It is crucial that Equinor focuses on recruitment and training. We have to get people in early, so we can teach them from scratch – because our systems require a long ramp-up time to learn to operate them.”
When Thygesen closes the gate to the operating facility for the last time, he will be carrying a small piece of industrial adventure and knowing that the multiphase rig will be in safe hands…for the next 50 years as well.
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