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The future is also an HSE choice

The Norwegian petroleum industry has no reason to fear the future, according to oil analyst Hans Henrik Ramm. "Not as long as the knowledge possessed by the people, the companies and the institutions is updated and safeguarded," he emphasizes. "New technology must allow us to move forward - also within new areas of energy. But just as important: it must be safe for people, assets and the environment."

Hans Henrik Ramm discussed the future of the Norwegian petroleum industry during the Safety Forum's annual conference 2007. Ramm believes that the answer to the question - whether the industry is moving towards development or decline - can primarily be found in the choices made by the various enterprises and the authorities.

Energetic as long as we want to be
"Our most important challenge is not the resource base, but the knowledge that lies in the people, the companies and the institutions in the Norwegian petroleum cluster. It is ready to take on the more demanding parts of the Norwegian shelf.
If the industry uses time to its advantage, it will also be able to apply this knowledge to other energy sources and less conventional resources (such as oil sand and gas captured in coal and hydrates) as conditions gradually make this possible. We cannot follow the world in every single area, but we can manage a sufficient number of them to continue to be an energy nation as long as we want to be," said Ramm.

The oil analyst emphasized that there is a mutual dependency between a well-maintained knowledge base and the ability to make tactical technological moves when and where the conditions are best.

"We must have technology that not only makes it possible to move forward, but which is also safe for people, assets and the environment, including the assets that lie in other industries. The HSE sector is crucial to this vision of the future," he emphasized.

HSE for profit or its own intrinsic value
Ramm also discussed possible conflicting motives for HSE.
"One viewpoint reflects commercial enterprises as profit-maximizing entities without consideration for any more HSE than that which is profitable," he pointed out. However, Ramm does not believe that there is a sharp distinction between HSE as a consequence of the authorities' regulation and HSE as its own motive force within the industry itself.

"The companies are concerned with going further than the authorities require. This follows from the aspects of the petroleum sector which make the companies interested in their reputation. The companies' own conduct plays a significant role in crossing this boundary. But not all of the companies are equally well-equipped to look after their own interests," he maintained.

Knowledge cluster
As regards the cluster theory, Ramm said that companies in clusters both compete and cooperate. "In this sense, the cluster theory does not differentiate between commercial players and others. Both research institutions and governmental agencies are part of specialized competence centers that both participate in and benefit from the exchange of knowledge. Therefore, it is antiquated to view the authorities' supervision as just a necessary evil, and one which is only concerned with non-commercial aspects. The supervisors are also value-creators - and should be," said Hans Henrik Ramm.

He emphasized that this also means that the supervisors must view their task as not only setting limits, but also ensuring that it is prudent to move the limits in time. In this manner the cluster can move forward towards new, challenging tasks - and assume new leading technological positions at an appropriate time ahead of the global development.

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Angela Ebbesen, technical secretary in the Safety Forum
E-mail: angela.ebbesen@ptil.no