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How a local guy from Sotra became German oil directorNorwegian oil activities are based on the best qualities in the culture in Western Norway, claims Jim Kvamme, Wintershall's director in Bergen.

Norwegian oil activities are based on the best qualities in the culture in Western Norway, claims Jim Kvamme, Wintershall's director in Bergen. The man that likes to sing songs written by Johannes Kleppevik in his boathouse.

How does a guy from Solsvik on Sotra become manager in a German oil company?

- Well, I was born on Ramsøy, outside Askøy, and have a strong connection to that island, even though I spent most of my childhood years on Mannsverk. I have lived in Solsvik west of Sotra since 1986. I am educated as an engineer and had my first job in the oil industry in 1984. In January 1986 I started working in Statoil on Gullfaks A, when Jacob Bleie was Manager, and I have had a number of duties in the company since then. At the end I was production manager for the Brage field and when Wintershall acquired Statoil`s shares in the field and took over the operatorship I was offered to join. Just like to two-thirds of the existing employees at Brage, I accepted the offer. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be director in a German oil company, I would probably not believe them.

But that you became, and when Wintershall established in Bergen last year you became the second oil company with oil and gas production operated from the city. How big is Wintershall in Bergen, and how big do you plan to become?

- For us, the acquisition of the operatorship on Brage was a real milestone for Wintershall. For the first time the company is responsible for the production of a large field in the North Sea. The operation of Brage requires about 200 employees from Wintershall, and nearly twice as many if you include contractors and all shifts. The company has a strategy to grow significantly on the Norwegian continental shelf, and when we established in Bergen the city was definitely part of our growth strategy in this country.

How have you been received in Bergen?

- With great interest and high level of engagement. Local politicians have been very welcoming and service oriented, and we have received many inquiries from business firms in the industry. Mayor Trude Drevland willingly functioned as a godmother when we opened our new offices here last fall. I contributed by singing and playing guitar. I guess we may call it a tribute song to Brage and all the people who work there.

So, a pop star and an oil manager?

- That is taking it a bit far. We are a group that occasionally gets together in the boathouses in Solsvik where we play and sing together.

This sounds like coast culture?

- Yes, I am a fan of John Kleppevik`s songs and the coast culture. This is also the culture we build further in the oil industry in the Western Norway. 

Is the environment in Wintershall really this informal?
- I would say it is remarkably informal and little hierarchical.

Does that mean you can stop by your boss, throw your legs on the table and say: Now I'm so fed up ... something something.....?

- The communication happens in a "more proper way". But being honest is not a problem.

What is the biggest difference between being a director in a German owned company and in a Norwegian owned company?

- The oil industry is quite international so the differences are much smaller than people think. For Wintershall the business in Bergen stands out because the things we are doing here happens in a much greater scale than what we do in the Netherlands, the UK, Denmark and Germany.

Has Bergen as an oil city an improvement potential?

- Bergen has all the important things an oil city needs. Immediate access to an airport and a helicopter park. Large oil bases and a highly competent supplier environment. The traffic situation in and around Bergen could definitely be better. That is fortunately about to change.

What are the things the Germans in Wintershall are most curious about when they visit Bergen?

- Both the top management in Wintershall and BASF have been visiting Bergen and they are very curious about our culture, our working environment and also how we think when we work.

Source: BergensTidende (paper version), June 15, 2014

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