“The chances of finding coal, oil or sulphur on the continental shelf off the Norwegian coast can be discounted”.
–Norwegian Geological Survey, 1954, in a letter to parliament
With some drying days to spend in Stavanger we decided to visit the Norsk Oljemuseum. Opened in 1999 in the shape of an oil platform on the waterfront, it’s become a striking landmark of Stavanger, with the insides dedicated to all things drilling related. It’s well worth a visit, and gives a history of oil, politics, and a bit of luck all which contributed to making Norway the wealthy minipower it is today.
From what I learned inside the oil platform, Norway’s history with petroleum can be summarised in five key dates.
- 1965 – Norway signs a treaty with the UK (and Denmark), dividing up the North Sea (Norwegian Continental Shelf) for future possible drilling. The NCS was divided up according to the geographical midpoint. Little did anyone know that off the coast of Stavanger right near the geographical boundary would lie the single most influential oil field of the North Sea.
- 1969 – After three years of dud explorations by several companies, Phillips Petroleum hit the jackpot on December 23, uncovering Ekofisk. Unfortunately for the British, Ekofisk was right on the border, but still in very much Norwegian territory. To this day it remains the largest offshore oil field ever found.
- 1972 – Aware the economy was about to dramatically change, the Norwegian government established the 10 oil commandments, ensuring that all resources discovered on the NCS would benefit the entire country, rather than third party corporations. These remain in place today.
- 1990 – Norway, wary of Dutch disease and of over valuing its currency through the influx of oil wealth, establishes the oil fund. Today, this is the fourth largest fund in the world, and ranks Norway one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
- 1991 – Norway introduces a carbon tax, one of the highest in the world, ensuring it also becomes the cleanest petroleum producer in the world. Since then, Norway has also been leading the way in reducing internal carbon emissions, proof of which we see about Bergen and Stavanager with the volume of locally produced electric cars, car-free CBDs, and excellent public transport.
All this makes Norway a pretty awesome place to live.
Or so I was led to believe from from the petroleum museum. I think it was unbiased.
Less oil and more Stavanger-related photos below.