The world will in the foreseeable future be dependent on petroleum. The consumption of oil and gas together has for more than 30 years been greater than growth in reserves through exploration. The consequence is higher prices. For Norwegians, this means higher gasoline prices. For people in other parts of the world, it means no access to energy at all and a status quo with poverty and famine.
Oil and gas is Norway’s largest export commodity. The supply industry is the second largest export sector. Norway is now facing an enormous challenge: When we close down the oil fields on the Norwegian continental shelf, more than half of the petroleum remains in the ground. Norway needs a massive investment in research and development in order to extract more of the remaining oil from the aging fields.
The problem to be solved is easily formulated and we have all means for success at our disposal: excellent academic universities, companies willing to invest, businesses which can test and develop the needed technology, and finally - an industry that can bring the technology to other parts of the world and make Norway a major player within improved oil recovery.
However, too little is being done. In its report on Norway’s petroleum activities, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy address the problem by proposing a separate institution devoted to IOR. This proposal illustrates a mindset that may not be correct: A technological problem that can be solved by establishing a new institution. But IOR may be a multifaceted challenge: It spans economics, social science, technology, biology, physics, mathematics, chemistry, IT, and more. Rather than establishing another institution, “new” money could be used to increase attention in current academic institutions towards increased recovery.
"We need a national effort in which research institutes within both basic and applied research, confronts the challenges of IOR from different angles.The task is huge, the potential is enormous, and time is limited. We therefore need a catalyst."
Minister Borten Moe has many options that could make the necessary change. He could:
- Use the ministry’s R&D funds to increase oil recovery
- Give Petoro permission to use a proportion of their investment fund to improve recovery
- Provide oil companies with tax incentives for testing new technologies for improved recovery
- Appoint board members to Statoil who are in favor of increased R&D budgets
- Provide more access to the NCS, to companies who emphasize IOR
A national effort to improve recovery will give Norway an increase in revenues, strengthen the Norwegian export industry, provide a boost for Norwegian research and development, ensure qualified workers in the petroleum industry in the future – and provide increased access to energy for people in the developing part of the world.