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Maritime opening in Murmansk

February 16, 2006, 10:45 CET

The ringing of a ship's bell signalled the opening of Hydro's office in Murmansk, Russia, on Wednesday. Both Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, and Murmansk Deputy Governor, Alexander Selin, took turns ringing the bell.

The event marked both the opening of Hydro's office in Murmansk and its supplier development center, Intershelf, which works closely with local interests to cultivate oil and gas industry expertise in Northwest Russia. Sights are especially set on future development of the Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea.

The opening ceremony took place at Hotel Meridian, the site of Hydro's new office in Murmansk. A number of prominent guests were invited to the affair.

In his speech, Støre emphasized that there are a number of good reasons for the Russians to select Norwegian oil companies as development partners on Shtokman.

High standard
"For one thing, the Norwegian companies have leading international technology and industrial standards resulting from the development of offshore oil and gas fields along the entire length of Norway's coastline. The Norwegian companies have additionally developed a high level of environmental and safety standards that they can contribute to Russia," Gahr Støre said.

"Norway's incentive should be to contribute high technological standards to projects in the Barents Sea. Last, but not least, the participation of Norwegian companies in far-northern regions is enormously important for bilateral relations between Russia and Norway."

Valuable initiative
The foreign affairs minister praised Hydro for its valuable initiative in starting the supplier develoment center, which shares Norwegian offshore experiences with local Russian industry.

Gahr Støre promised full support to both Hydro and Statoil concerning their strategic commercial endeavors in Northwest Russia.

The visit to the Hydro office was one of many meetings the Norwegian foreign affairs minister attended during a hectic Wednesday in Murmansk.

Idea becomes reality
Hydro's Moscow office chief, Petter Nore, welcomed guests to the formal opening ceremony.

He pointed out that the idea to create a supplier center was conceived in 2002 by Hydro's then Moscow office head, Arvid Halvorsen, partly as a result of a meeting between Russia's President Vladmir Putin and Norway's former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik in November 2001.

Asbjørn Sæbøe will head up Hydro's new Murmansk office during its first phase of operation. Nore characterized Sæbøe as a Hydro veteran in Russia who has contributed valuable pioneering input to numerous projects in the country over the years. Sæbøe paid his first visit to the Murmansk region in the 1960s.

"When we open an office here in Murmansk, it's because we have faith in the region and the resources found here. It's not for nothing that we say in one of our recent advertisements that the next 100 years belong to Russia. Hydro has had many projects in this vast, rich country over the years. In addition to the energy sector, the company is a significant partner in the Russian aluminium industry," Nore said.

Lengthy campaign

Hydro's Shtokman project leader, Bengt Lie Hansen, used the occasion to remind guests of Hydro's lengthy campaign to become a partner on the Shtokman field development.

"We have worked with Shtokman since we first heard that the gas field was discovered 17 years ago. In this context we are convinced that Hydro has technology that can make a valuable contribution to a successful development project, and our Ormen Lange field development has plenty to offer," said Lie Hansen.

The establisment of a competence center by Hydro results from the company's long-term perspective in Northwest Russia. The effort focuses on preparing the Russian supplier industry for offshore developments in Russia and abroad. The supplier develoment center will serve as an important meeting place between Russian and Norwegian suppliers. It contributes to securing Russian deliveries to the Shtokman project.

"The supplier development center will now establish a permanent office in Murmansk and, under the leadership of Benedikt Henriksen, we hope it becomes a meeting place for exchanging experiences, technology and information, and thus an important contributor to the development of local commerce in Northwest Russia," Lie Hansen said.