Early Norwegian oil history - Oil on the Norwegian continental shelf and its significance in research and teaching
Following the discoveries of oil in the North Sea, considerable efforts were made at Norwegian universities to do research and teaching in petroleum geology, not only in traditional geology. A UiO professor who committed to building up Norwegian expertise in petroleum geology has now written about the early Norwegian oil history.
Oil extraction in the North Sea: An oil platform on the Veslefrikk field in the northern part of the North Sea. Veslefrikk was discovered in 1981, and a plan for development and operation was approved in 1987. It came in production in 1989, but after 30 years the production is now low. Illustration photo: Nils Roar Sælthun/UiO
The early history of Norwegian oilstarted when the major international oil companies became interested in the North Sea. In his recent article in the Norwegian Journal of Geology, Knut Bjørlykke traces developments from the first recovery of oil to the establishment and success of Norwegian research and education in petroleum geology.
The Norwegian government and also the universities were in many ways unprepared for the discovery of oil and gas on the Norwegian continental shelf in the late 50s and 60s. There was little knowledge of the geological conditions on the continental shelf since the North Sea basins were covered by thick Quaternary and Tertiary sediments, and there were no oil seeps.
The centerline principle ,‘Midtlinjeprinsippet’, on the shelf was introduced in 1964 through an agreement with the United Kingdom. Subsequently, a Continental Shelf Committee, chaired by Jens Evensen from 1963 to 1965, drew up the legal aspects and regulations for oil companies applying for licences to explore and produce oil and gas offshore Norway. Geologists Anders Kvale (UiB) and Harald Bjørlykke (NGU) contributed as experts to the Committee's work.
Funding for a proposal for a Norwegian petroleum-related research project in 1964 was turned down, and it was not until 1972 that petroleum-related teaching and research was established, Bjørlykke points out in his article. After several dry wells, the Ekofisk field was discovered late in 1969 - early 1970, which made it clear that Norway could become a significant oil producing country. The exploration activity from the major oil companies brought with it a great and rapid increase in the knowledge we had about the Norwegian shelf.
About the author
Knut Bjørlykke is one of the first Norwegian geologists to enter petroleum geology. Through his work as a professor, he has contributed to the development of Norwegian competence through his teaching of students and his research in this particular field. Bjørlykke is currently Professor Emeritus at the Department of Geosciences, but is still active in research and scientific work. He has written several textbooks in the field and contributes in public debate and gives lectures.
Bjørlykke, K. 2019. Early history of petroleum exploration offshore Norway and its impact on geoscience teaching and research. Norwegian Journal of Geology, Volume 99; Issue 3, DOI https://dx.doi.org/10.17850/njg99-3-2