'Broad agreement' reached on treating Norway's environmental ills

An ambitious environmental initiative aimed at totally eliminating discharges from platforms off Norway within 10 years, as well as significantly curbing hazardous industrial emissions to the air, has won broad support from a working group made up of representatives from the country's oil companies, environmental groups, researchers, and government authorities.


STAVANGER�An ambitious environmental initiative aimed at totally eliminating discharges from platforms off Norway within 10 years, as well as significantly curbing hazardous industrial emissions to the air, has won broad support from a working group made up of representatives from the country's oil companies, environmental groups, researchers, and government authorities.

The 5-year old Miljøsok initiative yesterday presented Norway's Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Olav Akselsen, with its Phase 2 final report, which targets "zero discharge" of environmentally harmful compounds to the sea and emissions reductions of 40% for NOx, 60% for volatile organic compounds, and 18% for greenhouse gases�chiefly CO2.

Launching the report at the Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) 2000 conference in Stavanger, Miljøsok Cooperation Forum Chairman Sven Ullrig said the "broad agreement" that had been reached by the initiative's shareholders provided "a good starting point for the work ahead in respect of environmental challenges in the Norwegian oil and gas industry."

"The oil and gas industry is responsible for a large part of the Norwegian emissions and must be expected to contribute its share," said Ullrig.

"Oil and gas will be the main source of energy in large parts of the world in the foreseeable future," he added. "In a global perspective, the greatest challenges will be linked to reduced emissions [and] discharges from the use of fossil fuels."

The Miljøsok report suggests the greatest gains to be made will be seen in new field developments, where new "green" technologies are expected to reduce emissions by some 30%. Because 80% of all emissions come from existing installations, however, the report's authors acknowledge an overall reduction of no more than 18% will likely be realized.

"We know that the largest improvement will come in connection with the development of new fields," he continued. "It is far more costly to achieve reductions in emissions on fields already producing."

To reach the recommended targets, the Miljøsok report urges an increase in "commitments to several ongoing research projects," and that industry "prioritize investments in measures to reduce emissions."

Targeted cuts to emissions would only be achieved cost-effectively and to Miljøsok's schedule, said the report authors, if there were a "technological quantum leap beyond what we see the outline of today," and a "cooperative framework of conditions and requirements that actually promote an expedient environmental commitment" set up jointly by government and industry.

The report also advocates improved environmental management in all companies in the Norwegian oil industry by using modern risk analyses to make sure priority is given to the most pressing environmental problems on the "best possible basis."

Miljøsok was launched by Norway's Ministry of Industry and Energy in 1995 to facilitate cooperation between government and the oil and gas industry in dealing with the "most important environment challenges" on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The work carried out by Miljøsok will be continued by the Norwegian Oil Industry Association.

More in Government