Posts Tagged ‘Stavanger’

digital oil


3.23: Stavanger Forum, Energy Worlds: IT in Oil and Gas, replacing pre-2014 petroleum economy.


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Oil Directorate meeting.

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12/20: Viewshed from the Rica Hotel, downtown Stavanger.


I met with Anna Aabo, President of IRIS, International Research Institute of Stavanger. We met at the Oslo Energy Forum in Holmenkollen, last year. She was kind enough to provide me with a letter of recommendation for my Fulbright award.

support letter

Anna has just put the final touches on a Consortium with the University of Tromsø, that deals with technical and social issues relating to oil and gas development in the Arctic. In response, I let her know that I will be leading a PhD seminar at U Tromsø on the topic of expertise in the hydrocarbon industry.

Here is the course website: Expectation and Expertise

I walked through my projects, describing a proposal for submission to the European Research Council; the need to develop relations with industry and even spend time at IRIS for field study; and, to develop protocols on knowledge exchanges.


Anna was on board with everything, or I should say, supportive, though the devil is in the details.

Did I mention she has great sense of humor?

Upon arrival we headed straight for the coffee bar, a necessity in Norway as in the States. While there, she pointed out that the cafeteria had produced a Christmas porridge for the holiday festivities. I responded that porridge is but just one form of punishment in the United States. We both laughed. When leaving the canteen, walking back toward the lobby en route to her office, I saw a light shining in a particular angle, for which I had to stop right then and take a few photographs.

spot light art object
In the images directly above – a spot-light shines directly toward a piece of framed art work. The thoughtful positioning of light to enhance visual appreciation of professional art always captures my attention.

Two other images were close by.

art wind more artAnother piece of art hanging directly beside the previous artwork, located near the lobby; and an oversized publication that depicts artists crafting new designs on wind turbines.

Such appearances, incidental, lend authority to IRIS as an institute of highly abstract forms of knowledge production and appreciation. The assertion of abstraction takes on an immediacy of recognition within the public space of the internal work environment, made visible through artifacts that have transhistorical (non-personal) value.

12/18: Waking up, checking the weather of my viewshed.

Today, I met with a few folks from the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, an industry concern supported by oil companies. The firm has about 40 employees and is located in Sundnas, a town 20 minutes drive from downtown Stavanger. It is the location of Norway’s oil company head offices.

My contacts were Maiken Ims, Senior Advisor, Industry Policy, and Alfred Nordgard, Special Advisor, International Relations — both of whom I met last month in Houston at the TransAtlantic meeting organized by Norwegian Consular General, Jostein Mykletun.
Maiken and Alfred invited me to lunch in the building where they work. A number of oil and gas supplier companies are located nearby as well as in the building itself. Everyone, everyday, heads down to a cafeteria where they have access to plenty of yummy food. The canteen is open between 11AM and 1PM. I always order what my informant is eating. I like to taste what my informants are tasting.
One point that captured my attention was the artwork hanging on the walls of the lobbies and in the dining areas.

The earthly tones in the paintings mimic the stratigraphic layers where oil and gas are recovered. The images have also a paleolithic-style painting feel of say, the French Lascaux caves. Even then, given their primitive, primordial sense, they still manage to provide a kind of salon motif, and pose a unique contrast to the oil and gas work environment.

An Orchid in the below image, in the middle of a Norwegian winter. There were several lying about in the building.



We sat having lunch facing the parking lot. Maiken mentioned this point herself, stating further that in Oslo — restaurant windows face into courtyards.

In Stavanger, however, windows face toward industry, whether of cars and buildings, and that was perfectly suitable for Maiken — and for those, I guessed, who were also having lunch looking out at the parking lot from the cafeteria window.

I asked Maiken whether she could think of any companies working in Norway that the organization does not represent. She could not think of one. Here is a list of the companies the firm represents: Norwegian Oil Companies

Apparently, Alfred had worked previously at Shell under Johan Nic Vold, who is now Managing Director of Oslo Energy Forum, and a mentor of StudioPolar who has given wise advice in thinking about how to carry out this project in Norway. Alfred, Maiken, and I, knew a lot of the same folks more generally, and spent time exchanging networking notes.

Alfred discussed at some length the Russian High North developments, demonstrating that he knew quite a bit about regulation and tax issues. I was curious about the networks they belonged to and peppered both with questions about what boards they sit on. Alfred sits on the Research Council of Norway board, the main government funded academic research institution.
In the end, I was happy to have made their acquaintance. Everyone in Norway that I speak with appears well connected through various different jobs they hold in industry and government. They have been working for some 10 to 15 years in the field.

As it often happens, I was not always quite sure what I wanted out of the meeting, other than a chance to connect, to swap stories about who we know and what we think is going on across the Arctic frontier.

On my way out, Maiken gave me a swell book, the firm’s business trends report. I was handling it thinking, “wow, this really has the feel of a coffee table book”. And I told her so, to which she replied that it sometimes feels good to have something to hold in your hand. I asked how many copies did the company publish, in actual print, because it is also available on the internet, so I thought perhaps they only published a few. She replied that the company had printed “a lot”.

We will come back to Maiken and Alfred, and in fact, Alfred will be in Tromsø soon, for the Arctic Frontiers Conference, so that will give us another chance to connect.

12/17: Lounging in a hotel room, waiting for inspiration to begin writing.

Viewshed from my window.
Sitting around, waiting for what to happen, I was reminded of the Hollywood motion picture Inception, where director Christopher Nolan concerns himself with the nature of the very idea. The film poses the question: How does an idea occur to someone’s mind, and — an idea that must be correct, if one is to accomplish anything worthwhile?

faceThe argument is straight forward: Ideal beings struck so suddenly by a strong idea that it crushes them, then and there, perhaps forever. They become passionate believers, but never strong enough to master the idea, and so their whole lives afterward are spent, citing a passage from Fydor Dostoevsky, in some “last writhings, as it were, under the stone that has fallen on them and already half crushed them”.

Sociologist Max Weber at the turn of the 20th century, suggested that a correct idea is prepared only “on the soil of very hard work”, which explains all the running around in Nolan’s film. For Weber, the idea is a product of inspiration but which can only occur when the idea pleases. Weber cites scientists, such as Rudolf von Ihering who he describes, as the idea coming to him, “when smoking a cigar on the sofa,” and Hermann von Helmholtz of whom he states: “when taking a walk on a slowly ascending street,” etc. Here, inspiration is beyond deliberative reach. It resists our direct will, but can, like a muse appear to us when it feels we are ready.

herMovie director David Lynch, according to a New Yorker article some time ago, describes things differently. He suggests that ideas are floating in the cosmos already, and in fact, what we require is nothing less than a factory built in advance, awaiting to capture ideas upon their descent. It is similar to, say, the way a snow flake will, upon entering Stavanger, either lose itself by melting away, or, given the correct apparatus, be translated into material form and, in such cases, show us its deliberative design. For the director Lynch, then, it is not the correct idea that we require, but the correct form of capture.

These two approaches presuppose a dualism between content and form. For the Weberians, the concern is matter or its content (what is the idea), whereas, for Lynchens, it is manner or the form (how is the idea presented).

waitingMikhail Bakhtin makes a big deal of the person born of the idea too. In Fydor Dostoevsky’s novels, Bakhtin argues, there are no mere ideas, but in fact, voice-ideas, idea-images, idea-forces and so on. It is precisely a fidelity to the authoritative image of a human being in pursuit of resolution of ideological quests that represents the ideal human being, or something like that.

I am reminded here of statements by Stepan Trofimovich taken from Dostoevsky’s novel The Demons:

“Oh my friends, you cannot imagine what sorrow and anger seize one’s whole soul when a great idea, which one has long and piously revered, is picked up by some bunglers and dragged into the street, to more fools like themselves, and one suddenly meets it in the flea market, unrecognizable, dirty, askew, absurdly presented, without proportion, without harmony, a toy for stupid children!”

12/16: Peering out at my viewshed.

Writing in a hotel room, I feel like Dashiel Hammett and some of the characters of his own works. The comfort, the warmth, the impersonal nature of the surroundings that by definition are restored every day, like a freshly minted newspaper, bringing everything back to an originary point of perfection, in a manner that is transhistorical, leaving behind the personal belongings that carry incommensurable values — I manage to write quite a bit and under pressure in the hotel room.


The writer’s grotto.

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MuseumpetroramaI visited the Petroleum Museum in Stavanger. Impressive indeed. The museum is well designed and offers quite a few distinct installations providing easy to grasp information.

In this way, the viewer gets a quick understanding of an incredibly complicated set of operations. The ticket salesman started me on my tour, and even gave me a discount (25Kr less) because I had arrived toward the end of the day.

drill bit

As I entered, I came face-to-face with the “largest drill bit in the world”. I wrapped my arms around it, and gave it a good TSA-style pat-down.

From there I passed a set of panels describing Norway as one of the world’s oil nations, and read up on the loads of money in billions of Kr that flow into the Norwegian government coffers from oil exports.

sunday brunch

On my way, I passed by a fancy bar and restaurant inside the museum. The Sunday Brunch menu looks yummy as did the premium wines and hard liquor, not a standard in American museums.

The first installation is the History of the Earth room, which answers the question of “Why does Norway have oil?”

There are a number of, what appear at first glance as slot machines. That is, there are well-lit up kiosks that provide a natural history lesson covering billions of years of geographical history. Also, there is a movie projected on an earth-like orb that hangs from the ceiling. It depicts the movement of tectonic plates and the continents over billions of years in about 8 minutes.
slot machines?
This floating earth above my head was mesmerizing, especially when it shows a meteor screaming down on to the Gulf of Mexico, exploding and sending ash into the atmosphere. I stayed to watch the movie a few more times, even though I knew the museum would soon close. I took snap shot after snap shot.
ancient world
earth's movements

A collection of various types of drill bits was interesting, especially since there was a window above the bits, where I could see the bar/restaurant, which made me a little hungry. The bits were adorable, almost like I was in a jewelry store and looking at some fabulous gems that were placed on artistic mounts.




From there, one finds a number of dioramas that depict a series of models on a scale of “1:750” showing the innovative methods of drilling and production at increasing depths. I like dioramas. It reminds me of when I was in the third grade. Back then, we were asked by the teacher to bring in a “shoe box” to create some kind of story through paper cut-outs and glue.

I remember quite vividly the story I depicted. It was the Battle of Hastings, in England, because my father said we had a relative who fought in the battle. The diorama depiction, however, was not as practical as I would have hoped, with my colleagues suggesting that I had put “raisins” in the shoe box. They were supposed to be “people” charging down a hill to battle.

There is a fabulous collection of models of vessels and installations that my photography did not do justice to.

Soon after the models, the viewer is invited to Take a Journey Offshore — passing through a room that resembles a helicopter cabin to create the illusion of a journey to an offshore platform.
Technology in Depth, is one of the best depictions I have seen about explaining the complexities of oil and gas development. At first, I was not too excited about it. It is movie that recounts the pioneering technology for a very deep water installation that provides natural gas for export to the United Kingdom.

Outside the mini-theater, a little poster mimics the kind of posters one sees at a regular movie theater.
Also, there is a timer to indicate when the next movie showing will occur. Walking into the last few moments, I was not impressed with what was playing. An actor from England had just arrived home to realize that he had not paid his bills and that his electricity was being shut off.

But I waited for the next showing of the film.
And I did this, because while I was in the theater, I overheard someone who just finished watching the entire movie state, “amazing, that is an amazing installation”. So, with that recommendation, I wanted to see what the hubbub was all about.

The movie was fantastic.

Basically, the actor leaves his home in the UK, flies to Norway to see where his stove pipe natural gas (for “making a cup of tea”) is coming from. He ends up, in his first location on an off-shore rig off the North Sea coast of Norway.

There, the movie depicts with animation, the laying down of pipelines along the sea floor to bring the natural gas to shore for processing and then, the export by pipe, the longest underwater pipe in the world, to the UK.
From there, the actor heads over to various locations where different operations are taking place, including a housing site for all the steel pipe. The massive interconnections of everything in the video made me really think about what small aspect of the industry that I cover, and how it is that so many of the people that I work with have nothing in common with the daily practices that put this vast infrastructure into place.

Two other movies are available, one that depicts divers working in underwater to realize the Norwegian Oil Adventure.

Again, I was almost quick to run through the movie, but it was fascinating, a combination of real live video and animation, demonstrating the installation of deep sea pipelines.
gas compressor
Finally, Petrorama provides a wide view of Norway’s oil history, and is a mural that surrounds a cinema for the movie Petropolis.

This is a 3D film about oil and gas with cartoon creatures talking to the audience. By this time, even though it was in Norwegian language (the other films were in English), I decided to step in and take a seat.

I was not disappointed.
A photo of the museum above, depicted as stratigraphic layers of sedimentary basin.

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