Old technology revivedNorvik becomes new Statoil boss

Cost overruns and change of management

person Norwegian Petroleum Museum
At a time when oil prices were low, the modernisation of Statoil’s Mongstad refinery north of Bergen was found to be costing NOK 12 billion.
— Mongstad. Illustration: Jan Ulriksen
© Norsk Oljemuseum

That was three times the original budget, reflecting inadequate understanding of the amount of work involved and a rather optimistic initial estimate. This overrun was not raised at a regular board meeting until the project was almost completed. It became a political hot potato during the autumn of 1987, and the subject of a White Paper from the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

The question was whether the overrun should have consequences for Statoil’s board and management. At a board meeting of 19 November 1987, Vidkun Hveding, a former Conservative petroleum and energy minister and now deputy chair of the company, proposed that chief executive Arve Johnsen should be invited to resign. This view failed to win the board’s backing. On the following day, Hveding announced his resignation. He was eventually followed by the rest of the directors.

That left the chief executive with no choice. He resigned on 15 January 1988, marking the end of an era in Norwegian oil history. Johnsen had been an able leader of Statoil for 15 years, and a visionary pioneer of Norway’s new industry.

Old technology revivedNorvik becomes new Statoil boss
Published December 3, 2019   •   Updated December 13, 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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