Unni Fjaer, Equinor’s top executive in Newfoundland and Labrador, says Bay du Nord discovery is her “main mission”

Unni Fjaer, Equinor’s top executive in Newfoundland and Labrador, says Bay du Nord discovery is her “main mission”

Statoil has a new name, and it’s also got a new top executive looking after its operations in Atlantic Canada.

The Norwegian-based company officially changed its name to Equinor on May 16. But in March, it made another significant move, naming Unni Fjaer as its new vice-president, offshore Newfoundland, for Equinor Canada Ltd.

Fjaer served as Equinor’s location manager in Hammerfest, Norway before taking on the new job. She was responsible for the company’s LNG production.

And she has plenty of offshore experience in her 25-year career with Equinor. Fjaer previously held positions as platform manager offshore Norway and human resources manager for operations mid-Norway. She has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Fjaer says the focus in her current job will be the Bay du Nord discovery in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Flemish Pass Basin. The discovery was made in 2013, and Equinor says it contains approximately 300 million barrels of oil.

However, it hasn’t committed to developing the find yet. Fjaer did say at June’s NOIA oil and gas conference that Equinor and Husky Energy Inc, which is a minority partner in the discovery, have filed a project description with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for the potential development of Bay du Nord.

“I will, together with the rest of the office, work as hard as I can to make that fly. That’s my main mission,” Fjaer told Natural Resources Magazine during an exclusive interview at the NOIA conference. “We are enthusiastic. That’s why we are here and working hard every day to get it to be the best it can be, so it can be competitive in Equinor’s global portfolio.”

She also said the filing of the project description is a key step in the journey to turn the discovery into Newfoundland and Labrador’s fifth producing offshore oil field. “This filing allows us to undertake due diligence. It’s an essential step for Bay du Nord. We are still a few years away from a final [investment] decision.”

Equinor and Husky have made two other oil discoveries in the Flemish Pass – Harpoon and Mizzen. The Mizzen discovery holds an estimated 100-200 million barrels of oil. Equinor, which owns a 65 per cent interest in the discoveries with Husky Energy owning a 35 per cent interest, still hasn’t said how big the Harpoon discovery is.

But developing any or all discoveries will be challenging. Bay du Nord is located 500 kilometres northeast of St. John’s.

The North Atlantic is a challenging place to operate. Sea conditions are frequently rough, the fog is often present and icebergs pose a threat to infrastructure there during the spring.

Supplying any production platform and getting workers to and from Bay du Nord would take longer and pose different logistical challenges for Equinor compared to operations in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin where Newfoundland and Labrador’s four other producing fields – Hibernia, Terra Nova, White Rose and Hebron – are located.

Ultimately, Fjaer’s job with Bay du Nord will be to ensure costs are manageable and it can make an acceptable rate of return during the life of the project.

The good news for Equinor is that Hibernia will be producing long past it’s expected lifespan and additional volumes of oil have been discovered at Husky Energy’s White Rose field.

Suncor Energy Inc. is also mulling over a project to extend the life of its Terra Nova field.

Steve Hogan, Suncor’s vice-president, East Coast Operations, told NOIA attendees that the field has between 70-80 million barrels of reserves left after 2020, and that resource could extend the life of the field another 10 years.

Hogan said he expects the company will make an investment decision by early 2019 on whether it will go ahead with a life extension project.

“In terms of that project, we need to make sure the cost and schedule required to execute that project, when layered against the resource potential, is economic,” Hogan said during an interview with Natural Resources Magazine at NOIA. “If we deliver on two of those things, I think we have a good opportunity to extend the life of the asset.”

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