Verbatim: The Energy Transition with Unni Fjaer

Verbatim: The Energy Transition with Unni Fjaer
Unni Fjaer

Unni Fjaer is VP of Equinor Canada. She previously served as Equinor’s (formerly Statoil) location manager in Hammerfest, Norway, where she was responsible for LNG production. Ms. Fjaer has had significant offshore experience during her 25-year career with Equinor, including positions as platform manager offshore Norway and human resources manager for operations mid-Norway. In N.L., Ms. Fjaer currently oversees offshore operations. Equinor has a majority stake in N.L.’s Bay du Nord discovery in the Flemish Pass Basin. The largest global find of 2013, Bay du Nord is estimated to contain 300 million barrels of oil.

NATURAL RESOURCES MAGAZINE: In addition to investing in renewable energy and new energy solutions, Equinor is focused on reducing emissions in the oil and gas industry and has targeted a reduction of three million tonnes of CO2 by 2030, or a 20 per cent reduction over 2017. Efforts include rethinking platform design, production and maintenance. Pre-front-end engineering and design studies are now being done for the potential Bay du Nord floating production storage and offloading vessel (FSPO). Would the Bay du Nord platform rely on new climate-efficient or emission-reducing technology?
Unni Fjaer: While the Bay du Nord project is still in the early phases of development planning, the project has the potential to be a low-carbon development. Equinor actively evaluates opportunities for its projects and activities to ensure our activities employ carbon-efficient technologies as is applicable and available. Bay du Nord is no exception to this approach.

NRM: Equinor is now piloting Eelume, a snake robot with the potential to revolutionize the maintenance of equipment on the seabed and replace submarine vessels. Due to its remote location, the Bay du Nord FPSO would be the furthest from shore in the world, and consequently, have potentially fewer workers than usual. It would also be a deepwater site. Will technologies like Eelume be considered for Bay du Nord given these conditions?
UF: While it’s too early to say if a pilot research project like Eelume would be part of a Bay du Nord development project, Equinor is currently evaluating the best technology we could apply to the project to support both safe and efficient operations. The potential application of innovation projects such as Eelume is part of that ongoing work.

NRM: Equinor has declared its support for the Paris agreement, launched a strategy of lowering emissions and begun expanding its investment in renewables. Among Big Oil, it is a front runner in this regard. By 2020, it plans to direct 25 per cent of research funds to new energy solutions and energy efficiency, including offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen. By 2030, the company plans to have renewables represent 15–20 per cent of its investment portfolio. Does this represent a major shift in strategy for Equinor?
UF: Equinor has been a leader with regards to working to reduce carbon emissions and arguing for effective climate regulation for decades. We have operated carbon capture and storage projects for over 20 years and continue to invest in reducing climate emissions from our activities. We’ve been investing in offshore wind for over a decade. Our current strategy is a continuation of a lot of important work, but like the rest of the world we see the need for an energy transition and we are positioning the company for that, and in that regard strengthening our work on reducing emissions and increasing investments in renewable energy.

NRM: Equinor plans $12 billion USD in renewable energy projects towards 2030, in addition to existing investments in wind in the U.K., Germany and the U.S., and offshore wind investments in Scotland, which employ floating wind turbines. Is Equinor considering renewables investment in Canada, and in particular, Atlantic Canada?
UF: Equinor actively reviews potential investments in new energy opportunities across the globe. At this time, Equinor does not have immediate plans to invest in renewable energy in Canada, however, as the industry continues to advance and mature in Canada, it may be part of our future investment evaluations.

NRM: Equinor must ensure costs are manageable in the Bay du Nord project, and that it can make a reasonable rate of return during the project’s 12-year lifespan. Development costs are currently estimated at $6.8 billion CAD, and a break-even price of $50 per barrel has been given. What are the factors that may drive that price point down? Does Equinor have a target price in mind that would green light the project?
UF: When developing a major project like the Bay du Nord development, it is critical to work diligently to improve a business case throughout the development process. There is no specific target price Equinor can share, but it is critical that the Bay du Nord project is as competitive as possible to support a potential sanction decision in late-2020.

NRM: In 2016, Equinor established Equinor Energy Ventures (EEV) with a mandate to invest $200 million over seven years in new energy technologies such as battery storage. Does EEV anticipate investment in Canadian technology firms undertaking work in this area?
UF: In 2018, Equinor became an anchor investor in ArcTern Ventures, a Canadian early-stage venture capital firm that focuses on clean technologies. Equinor continues to evaluate future investments around the world through EEV. In addition, Equinor has made previous investments through Equinor Technology Ventures in two promising Canadian energy technology companies, Ambyint and Corvus. |nrm

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