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I am proud of the work we do

Is electrification of Norwegian offshore industry a necessary climate initiative? Without a doubt, says platform manager and hobby fisherman Torstein Halstensen.

Torstein Halstensen has worked as an operational manager at Equinor for 18 years and, prior to that, spent nine years employed in various supplier companies in the oil industry. For the past two years, he has been the platform manager for Troll C. He is responsible for the emergency preparedness of a crew of around 100 people, ensuring safe and stable delivery of vast amounts of energy, and overseeing a conversion to electric power that is nearing its final phase.

“I see how important this transition is for reducing our emissions and costs. I see our social responsibility, and I believe we are doing the right thing,” says Torstein.

Troll is located in the North Sea and is Norway’s largest oil and gas field. The field covers about 10 percent of Europe’s gas demand, and the energy production is equivalent to about three times Norway’s annual hydropower production. The field is therefore a key component of Europe’s energy security. When Troll A was fully electrified almost 30 years ago, it became the first platform on the Norwegian continental shelf to do so, avoiding half a million tonnes of CO₂ emissions annually. However, emissions from the continental shelf are still significant. Twenty-five percent of Norway’s emissions come from oil and gas, and Troll B and C are part of this picture.

On a typically grey early summer day in Western Norway, Torstein welcomes us aboard his fishing boat. Here, a few miles south of Torgallmenningen in Bergen, he has been fishing in the fjord since he was a boy, and his enthusiasm is still there. Torstein knows a lot about what lies beneath the surface in the archipelago he will be guiding us through. “Cod, yes, I could catch twenty in a day. Now they are rarer to see.”

Torstein handles the catch and explains how climate change has led to noticeable differences in fish stocks. He is calm and serious.

“Cod and wild salmon are losing out, while fish species suited to warmer waters, like mackerel, are moving further north. We must be concerned when nature is changing,” he says.

What does Torstein answer if someone asks how he, being so environmentally conscious, can work in the industry he does?

“Then I answer that it is precisely because of that. As a platform manager, I have a fantastic opportunity to make a direct impact. We have great opportunities to make a difference.”

Portrait of Torstein Halstensen on a boat
Torstein is in no doubt; electrification of the Norwegian continental shelf is one of the most important and cost-effective climate measures we have.
Photo: Eirik Stordrange 

“We can’t do much about the world’s energy needs. But we have a responsibility to deliver energy to society, and for now, oil and gas are an important part of that supply. Therefore, we must make it as clean as possible,” says Torstein.

Electrification will be a significant contribution to reducing Norway’s total greenhouse gas emissions and is part of a larger plan. By 2030, our ambition is to halve emissions from our own oil and gas production. This will be achieved through increased energy efficiency on the platforms, the closure of some platforms, and the most important thing of all—electrifying the platforms that will continue to produce in the coming decades. The Troll field is expected to deliver oil and gas until 2050 and can function as a production hub for other discoveries in the area. Therefore, production must be as low-emission as possible.

As a platform manager, it is important for Torstein to consider the overall picture, where operating costs are a factor in addition to the climate account. Less gas wastage also means that operations become more profitable.

“My message is twofold because we must dare to talk about economics too. What do we gain from switching from gas to electric power?” says Torstein.

As it stands today, Troll C consumes about 450,000 cubic metres of gas every single day to run the facility. This is gas with a market value of approximately NOK 650 million a year. On top of that come CO₂ taxes of NOK 530 million a year, half of which go to the Norwegian state and half to the EU. The taxes currently account for around half of the operating costs on Troll C, have doubled in a few years, and are expected to continue to increase.

When the annual electricity cost calculated for Troll C after switching from gas to electric power is NOK 570 million, it makes the arithmetic simple, he believes.

“Where should we save? On safety, welfare, wage costs, or CO₂ tax? The answer is obvious,” says Torstein.

Electrification of the longest-lived installations on the continental shelf is important for maintaining production and is therefore a measure with a significant effect, both for the climate and costs. Nevertheless, it creates a lot of debate.

“You have those who say it’s pointless. That the gas we save on the platform will still be used somewhere else. But that’s a misunderstanding. The gas will last longer and be used more efficiently, in places where it cannot easily be replaced by a cleaner source,” says Torstein.

Opportunities for learning are another clear advantage Torstein can see in the pioneering work.

“Think of all the expertise we are gaining. Think of the electricians out there, who are just getting better and better. We need that expertise in Norway, there’s no doubt about it,” he says. Someone must drive the technology forward and come up with the solutions, and Torstein believes that Norway is probably among the countries best able to afford to do so right now. Therefore, he believes it is absolutely right that we are a leading country.

For someone who gets as close to the extraction process as he does, it is also important to talk about several of the benefits of electrification for everyone working offshore.

“On a platform with gas pipes under pressure, safety is extremely important. When we electrify, we remove the gas that powers the facility. This reduces the risk of accidents and avoids exposure to chemicals. So, we ensure safer workplaces over time. For our people offshore, it means a better working environment and safer days at work,” says Torstein.

Finally, what does the platform manager believe is needed to reach the goal of net zero by 2050 as quickly as possible?

“Well, the population must be with us. Politicians must be with us. We must have cooperation. If we hit snags now, it will be difficult for us to get there. So, we need to have the politicians with us. And they need to have the people with them. And I believe we can actually achieve that.”

Troll

  • The Troll field is located in the northern part of the North Sea, about 65 kilometres west of Kollsnes.
  • The field consists of two reservoirs, Troll East and Troll West, and three platforms, Troll A, Troll B, and Troll C.
  • The field contains about 40 percent of the total gas reserves on the Norwegian continental shelf and is the cornerstone of Norwegian gas production.
  • Troll is also one of the largest oil fields on the Norwegian continental shelf.
  • Troll A has been electrified since 1996. Work is now underway for partial electrification of Troll B and full electrification of Troll C.
  • The project includes an onshore facility at Kollsnes, a subsea power cable from Kollsnes to Troll B (80 km), a cable from Troll B to Troll C (17 km), and modifications to the platform decks on Troll B and C.
  • Equinor is the operator for the Troll A, B, and C platforms and the pipelines to shore, while Gassco is the operator for the gas facility at Kollsnes on behalf of Gassled. Equinor is the technical service provider for the daily operation at Kollsnes.
Read more about Troll

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