Knut Åm – oil and gas veteran

person by Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The special contribution made by Knut Åm to Phillips Petroleum Company was one reason for his appointment in 2014 as a Knight First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav.
— Knut Åm in his office in 1993. Photo: Dag Myrestrand/ConocoPhillips
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Åm was born at Årdal in the Sogn district of western Norway in 1944, and grew up in Oppdal and Volda/Ørsta where he proved an able pupil at school. 

He opted to study mining engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) in Trondheim, graduating with honours in 1967. 

Åm’s first job was with the Norwegian Geological Survey (NGU), again in Trondheim, where he worked and conducted research for six years. One of his jobs was to interpret aeromagnetic measurements of sub-surface rocks made from the air, which provide valuable information on geology and prospects for finding petroleum. In a series of publications, he described the big sedimentary basins identified in the Skagerrak between Norway and Denmark and in the Norwegian and Barents Seas. 

He joined the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) in 1974, serving as a section head in the resource department and a principal engineer in the safety department. 

That was followed by three years with Statoil, where he became the state oil company’s first vice president for research and development. His appointments at the time included chairing a research programme on offshore safety, which led to legislation enacted by the Storting (parliament) and a bigger research effort. 

Joining Phillips

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Hovedkontoret til ConocoPhillips i Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Foto: ConocoPhillips

Åm secured a job with Phillips in 1982 and was soon sent to the head office at Bartlesville in Oklahoma to get better acquainted with the company and its corporate culture. 

After a year in the USA, he returned to the company’s Tananger office outside Stavanger and became the first Norwegian to serve as offshore manager for the Greater Ekofisk Area (GEA). 

That put him in charge of 23 platforms, with responsibility for the waterflooding programme as well as the project to jack up a number of the installations. These major developments extended the producing life of the GEA and sharply increased estimates for recoverable reserves from its fields. 

Åm led this work during difficult times, with low oil prices and the need to implement cost savings and overcome substantial financial challenges. As if that were not enough, he also taught at the University of Bergen from 1985 to 1990 as an adjunct (part-time) professor of applied geophysics. 

First Norwegian chief executive

Knut åm,
Knut Åm ved kontorpulten i 1993. Foto: Dag Myrestrand/ConocoPhillips

After heading operations in the Permian and San Juan Basins at Odessa, Texas, from 1988-91, Åm became the first Norwegian president and managing director for Phillips Petroleum Norway. 

That put him in charge of 3 000 employees in the GEA as well as in Tananger, Oslo, Teesside and Emden. This was when a redevelopment of Ekofisk was planned, along with the future cessation and removal of old platforms.[REMOVE]Fotnote: https://www.fylkesmannen.no/globalassets/fm-rogaland/dokument-fmro/felles-og-leiing/brev-og-artiklar/fm-tale-til-knut-am.pdf 

By 1996, Åm was back in Bartlesville – now as vice president and head of all exploration and production in Phillips. He stayed in that job until retiring in the USA during 1999.

Offices and committees

But his working life did not end there. Appointments from 1999 to 2007 include membership of the Statoil board – and many similar posts can be mentioned. 

Åm has been president of the Norwegian Geological Council and the Norwegian Petroleum Society, and chair of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (now the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association). 

He led the exhibition committee of the 1996 ONS oil show in Stavanger, and has chaired Bergen’s Christian Michelsen Research institute as well as the industrial council of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.  

In addition to chairing Hitec ASA, he has been a director of several technology companies. 

Mention must also be made of the improved recovery committee appointed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with Åm as chair. This produced a report in September 2010 which presented 44 specific measures for improving the recovery factor on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). 

Through his work and many appointments, Åm has been acclaimed for a combination of expertise, creativity and determination.  He also demonstrated the ability to tackle the requirements of Norway as a nation as well as the industry and its employees – not least with regard to the working environment and safety in a demanding and risky offshore industry. 

Optimist

In retirement, Åm is an optimist – with regard to the climate as well. “I’m very concerned with nature, but believe we should extract the resources its given us,” he told Otium in 2016. 

“Norway could have a long and good future in the oil and gas industry if people give it more support. Exploring for new deposits is important, but we should also seek to achieve a far better recovery factor from both new and existing fields.” 

“You can naturally concentrate on life’s negative aspects. Then everything’s simply awful. I think you’ll be a far happier person if you prefer to see the positive side of life. I call that self-motivation. We need more of that in the energy sector.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: https://api.optimum.no/sites/default/files/PDF/optimum-magasinet-2016.pdf 

Published 21. October 2019   •   Updated 21. October 2019
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Base operations

person By Norwegian Petroleum Museum
All the supplies needed to ensure that the offshore platforms can do their job of producing oil and gas pass through the base at Tananger outside Stavanger. Warehouse operation at the base covers five main functions: goods reception, spare parts store, accounting, pipe store and goods dispatch.
— Phillips is about to establish themselfs at the Norsco base,1972 Photo: Norsk fly og flyfoto/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Dusavik base, 1966-73

The contract for Phillips’ first supply base in Norway was signed with Stavanger-based tanker company Smedvig Tankrederi on 25 April 1966.

It covered the hire of outdoor storage and quay areas as well as a new combined warehouse and office building which was modest by today’s standards.

Located at Dusavik just outside Stavanger, Phillips ranked as the first tenant at what was to become one of the two big offshore supply bases in the district.

The drilling operations which led to the discovery of Ekofisk were served from Dusavik. While the lease ran until 1981, it only functioned as the main base for the Stavanger area until 1973.

Rapid organisational growth made the premises in Dusavik too small by that year, and additional space was obtained by taking a clearly creative approach.

 

So Phillips secured premises in a soap factory, a Chinese restaurant and the bar and other areas of Stavanger’s Alstor Hotel. And many of those hired in 1973 are sure to remember that they were interviewed at the city’s Atlantic Hotel.

basevirksomhet, engelsk,
Hotel Atlantic. Photo: Asbjørn Jensen/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Phillips base, 1973-81

Some activity had been established at the Aker Norsco base in Tananger during 1972, but it was not until the autumn of 1973 that the headquarters for Ekofisk was transferred from Dusavik.

basevirksomhet, 1976, engelsk,
The "H-building" (lower right corner), at Tananger. Photo: Unknown/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

That occurred with the occupation of the H Building at Tananger, where Phillips had signed a lease with the base company the year before.

This covered the hire of outside storage areas, quays, warehousing, a canteen and an office building – a complete supply base. All the buildings were purpose-built.

The lease gave Phillips an option to acquire the whole facility at a later date, which the company duly exercised in the summer of 1979.

To varying degrees since 1973, the operator has needed to lease both warehousing and offices from Aker Norsco – partly in temporary structures and partly in permanent premises.

From 1973 to 1976, exploration operations with the Ocean Viking rig continued to be run from the Dusavik base. The charter then expired, and remaining activities were moved to Tananger.

Lack of space at the latter premises meant that the training department was transferred to Dusavik and remained there until the lease expired in 1981.

Similar shortages meant extra premises had to be leased around Stavanger. This growing problem led to plans being laid from 1978 for a significant expansion at Tananger.

Phillips base since 1981

The new building was gradually occupied from December 1980 and formally opened in August 1981. Once it had been finished, the old H Building was completely refurbished to the same standard.

This expansion marked a significant improvement in working conditions for many employees, and helped to enhance efficiency by gathering much of the organisation under one roof.

The development was originally intended to meet all needs for office space, with the exception of the project department’s requirements.

However, it became clear even before the new building was occupied that this goal would not be reached. But it proved possible by and large to cease hiring space outside Tananger.

Løfteskipet Uglen i aksjon ved Norscobasen i juli 1980. Foto: NOM/Norsk Fly og Flyfoto Løfteskip, Uglen, Norscobasen,1980, phillips, sola, olje, inntekter
The crane barge Uglen in action at the Norsco base in July 1980. Photo: Norsk Fly og Flyfoto/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

To deal with developments in the supply services for Ekofisk, Phillips entered into a contract with Aker Norsco on the construction of a larger and more modern warehouse.

This building and associated offices were occupied in late 1982/early 1983, and were regarded as a model example for the purpose.

The waterflooding project on Ekofisk received a green light in 1983, which created the need for more office space to accommodate the project department.

Since a quick start was important, the new building in Tananger was ready three months after the contract with Aker Norsco had been signed.

Premises utilised by Phillips in the Stavanger area by 1988 comprised 20 000 square metres of offices, 10 000 square metres of storage space and 850 square metres of workshops. In addition came the offices at Munkedamsveien in Oslo.

Another new building opened at the Tananger base in July 1996, which meant the whole workforce was assembled on one site in two connected premises.

While the old offices covered 14 000 square metres, the new seven-storey building has an area of 11 300 square metres and provides 420 additional office spaces.

It also accommodates a 600-square-metre conference centre, as well as a gym and a swimming pool measuring eight by 12.5 metres in the basement.

The Tananger base was sold in July 1996 to Aker Base, including buildings, furniture and fittings, and the deepwater quay.

Activities at the base

The Phillips base at Tanager plays a central role in operating the Greater Ekofisk platforms. All necessary supplies allowing these installations to do their job pass through it.

Warehouse operation at the base covers five main functions: goods reception, spare parts store, accounting, pipe store and goods dispatch.

The spare parts store is managed with the aid of a comprehensive computer system with full information for offshore personnel to log on directly and check availability.

When goods are received at the warehouse, they are marked with a purchase number and all data concerning the order is entered. They are packed out, checked and sent for shipment offshore.

The workshop, located in the same building as goods reception, deals with such jobs as mechanical repair of diesel engines, pumps, valves, heat exchangers and compressors.

It also repairs base equipment, like forklift trucks, cranes and fire-extinguishing systems. In addition, the shop produces pipework, pressure tanks and other structural welding.

The head office for Phillips’ activities in Norway stands alongside the supply base for the platforms in the Greater Ekofisk Area.

basevirksomhet, engelsk,
In November 2004 ConocoPhillips opened its OOC (Onsore Operation Center) at Tananger. Photo: Kjetil Alsvik/ConocoPhillips
Published 29. July 2019   •   Updated 22. October 2019
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The oil and gas terminals

person By Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Oil and gas from the Greater Ekofisk Area is piped to Teesside in the UK and Emden in Germany respectively, where the pipeline terminals formed part of the field development. ConocoPhillips still operates the oil terminal in Teesside, while the facility in Emden has been taken over by Norwegian state-owned company Gassco.
— Gassterminalen i Emden. Foto: Husmo Foto/Norsk Oljemuseum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Oil terminal in Teesside

Olje- og gassterminalene, engelsk,
Teesside terminal. Brian Henderson Thynne takes samples of refrigerated propane. Photo: Husmo Foto/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The terminal at Teesside in north-east England receives oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) by pipeline from the Ekofisk field. It comprises stabilisation, NGL fractionation, storage tanks for crude oil and an export port.

After arriving through the Norpipe Oil line, crude and NGL are separated and the oil goes through a stabilisation process before reaching the 10 storage tanks, which each hold 750 000 barrels.

The NGLs go to the fractionation facility, with a daily capacity of 64 000 barrels, for separation into methane, ethane, propane, and normal and iso butane.

While the methane (natural gas) is used to fuel the plant, the other products (now known as liquefied petroleum gases – LPG) are made liquid by cooling and stored for export by sea.

One reason for the choice of Teesside as the landfall for the Ekofisk pipeline was the opportunity it offered to install deepwater quays.

The terminal has four of these, with those for crude oil able to handle tankers up to 150 000 deadweight tonnes. The LPG quays can accept carriers loading as much as 60 000 cubic metres.

Two of the crude oil quays lie on the main channel of the River Tees, while the others have been installed in dredged docks.

Gas terminal in Emden

olje- og gassterminalene, engelsk,
Photo: Husmo Foto/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Gas arriving at the Emden terminal from the Ekofisk Complex enters nine parallel treatment trains for cleaning, metering and onward distribution to the buyers.

The North Sea gas is very clean, and needs only limited treatment to remove small amounts of sulphur compounds using an absorption process. Impure molecules from the gas accumulate on the surface of small particles, which act as filter spheres.

Each of the nine trains comprises four process columns and a process oven. The gas enters the top of a column and leaves through the base after passing through the filter spheres.

That leaves the gas ready for sale, and it is piped to the fiscal metering station before entering the buyer receiving pipelines and distribution network.

Three separate commercial pipeline systems connect to the terminal, operated by Ruhrgas, BEB and Gastransport Services (previously Gasunie) respectively. They pipe the gas away on behalf of the gas buyers.

The Norsea Gas Terminal in Emden was officially opened in September 1977 by Norwegian industry minister Bjartmar Gjerde and Phillips executive Gordon Goerin.

Ranking as the first gas sales deal for the Norwegian continental shelf, the Ekofisk agreement paved the way for later contracts covering other fields off Norway.

Regularity at the Emden terminal has been very high, with its own equipment never causing shutdowns. Maintenance takes place when other parts of the system are off line.

The terminal has a daily capacity of about 2.1 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Gas transport restructured

Norpipe AS owned the gas pipeline from Ekofisk to Emden until the transport system for the Norwegian offshore sector was restructured at 1 January 2003.

Norsea Gas A/S furthermore served as the formal owner of the Emden facility, with Phillips Petroleum and then ConocoPhillips as operator for both pipeline and terminal.

olje- og gassterminalene,
Teesside gas terminal. Photo: Husmo Foto/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Since 2007, Norway’s state-owned Gassco company has been responsible for technical operation of the facilities on behalf of their owners.

That included operator responsibility for the H7 and B11 booster platforms along the gas pipeline, which were shut down in 2007 and 2013 respectively and have since been removed.

The Gassled partnership is a project collaboration embracing 10 companies which collective own large parts of the gas infrastructure on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).

A substantial proportion of Norway’s gas deliveries to Germany continues to arrive at the Emden terminal, including the volumes piped from Ekofisk.

Preliminary planning for a new terminal in the German port began in 2011, with Gassled taking the investment decision for this development in the autumn of 2012.

Construction work began in the following year, with the new facility being built on an unused part of the existing terminal site.

The new terminal has not expanded export capacity. But its functionality is well adapted to future processing needs for fields in the Greater Ekofisk Area and other parts of the NCS sending gas through the Norpipe system.

It was officially opened on 24 May 2016 by Elisabeth Aspaker, the Norwegian government minister for the EU and the European Economic Area. That closed a chapter in Ekofisk’s history.

Source: ConocoPhillips Norge

Published 29. July 2019   •   Updated 12. October 2019
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