Interview with Helge Lund, CEO of StatoilHow did Statoil and Wintershall find one another? And what is the Norwegian giant's view on the energy transition in Germany? The Wintershall online editorial team talked about this with Statoil CEO Helge Lund.
Mr. Lund, Statoil and Wintershall have been partners since October. How did this relationship come about?
Lund: We identified several areas in which we could imagine working together. Our interests simply match very well. On the one hand, Wintershall wants to strengthen its upstream activities. On the other hand, we have found many new oil and gas deposits in the Norwegian continental shelf that we can develop with a partner like Wintershall. In addition, Wintershall and BASF have developed a technology that can be used to increase the exploitation rate of existing oil fields. This is something we are aiming for as well. We also want to cooperate with Wintershall in the area of researching unconventional hydrocarbon deposits. Our relationship is a classic win-win situation.
By signing a long-term gas delivery deal with Wintershall you just set a new milestone in this young partnership. What are the benefits of shipping natural gas from Norway to Germany?
Lund: Norwegian gas is competitive, and we are a very reliable supplier. Germany and Norway enjoy close political and economic relationships. This means: total supply reliability.
Germany wants to get out of nuclear power by the year 2022 and increase the share of power being generated from renewable energy sources. What are the advantages of natural gas in the energy mix?
Lund: Natural gas is a cost-effective and competitive energy source that does not require any government subsidies. I also believe that it provides a solution for lowering CO2 emissions, because gas-fired power plants have significantly fewer emissions than coal-fired facilities. Gas-fired power plants ensure a highly flexible supply of energy, because you can simply ramp their production up and down in line with demand. If we want to further reduce CO2 emissions, replacing coal-fired power plants with gas-fired plants provides a great opportunity that we should not ignore.
Whether the energy turnaround proposed by the government can really succeed in Germany is highly debatable. How do you assess the implementation of this goal in Germany?
Lund: We have a situation that is quite paradoxical in many ways. On the one hand, you are increasing the production of renewable energy with huge public subsidies. On the other hand, CO2 emissions continue to increase because you are producing more energy with coal-fired plants. This is happening despite the fact that government wants to achieve the opposite, namely a reduction in CO2 emissions, by supporting renewable energy sources. Focusing more on gas – also as a bridge to more renewable energies – would be a smart solution.
You agreed with Wintershall to jointly look for more unconventional gas deposits in Germany and abroad. What do you say to people who have concerns in this regard?
Lund: First of all, the energy industry has a long tradition in solving the world’s most complex industrial problems. We produce oil and gas under very difficult conditions, for example in deep-ocean deposits or in areas with arctic temperatures. This expertise also enables us to produce shale gas while meeting the highest environmental and safety standards. In the U.S. we are already a major player in this field. What we need is a wide-ranging dialog with the general public. We must make our plans transparent so that people trust us. We have the highest environmental and safety standards. If we can communicate this, the general public view these technologies in a more favorable light. Everyone knows that the United States is enjoying very competitive gas prices thanks to the production of shale gas. This in turn benefits the economy and creates jobs.
Statoil aims to improve the exploitation rate for its existing oil production – another area in which you are cooperating with Wintershall. Is this a great opportunity?
Lund: Since it is becoming more and more difficult to develop new oil fields all over the world, we must aim to maximize the exploitation rate at the production sites we already have. The opportunities are huge, in my opinion. Statoil has been working on the corresponding technologies for quite some time. Now we want to conduct this research in cooperation with Wintershall. We are also exploring the use of the innovative “Schizophyllan” technology developed by Wintershall and BASF in offshore applications. As you can see, the partnership of Statoil and Wintershall provides excellent opportunities for both companies.