The Brent discovery was used by its licensees, Shell and Esso, as a lever to secure quick entry to the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). They asked to awarded the adjacent blocks in Norway’s North Sea sector outside the regular licensing rounds. If the discovery extended onto the NCS, the two companies saw an advantage in securing the rights to this part of the field as well. That would permit joint utilisation by the same licensees and operator.
Norway’s Ministry of Industry received an application from these two companies on 29 February 1972 for a production licence covering blocks 33/9 and 33/12. The government oil office recommended that industry minister Finn Lied approve this request.
Before this memo reached Lied, however, state secretary (deputy minister) Arve Johnsen noted in the margin: “Discussed with Gulnes, Dæhlin, Christiansen, Hagemann, Manshaus. No supplementary award to be given. Include in general [licensing round] announcement.”
The ministry responded to the application on 27 March: “The Ministry of Industry has concluded, after a careful consideration of the opportunities for and possible consequences of awarding supplementary blocks, that it cannot make such an award so close to the general announcement. It accordingly regrets that your application must be refused.” Plans were afoot in the ministry to hold a third offshore licensing round in the autumn of 1972, but this was postponed by a year because of the work then under way to establish a state-owned oil company and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).
It was decided to put off the licensing round until this process had been completed. The Storting (parliament) voted on 14 June 1972 to establish Statoil (the Norwegian State Oil Company Ltd) and the NPD. The Statfjord blocks were awarded in August 1973 outside the regular sequence of licensing rounds.
Lerøen, B., & Norge Oljedirektoratet. (1997). 1001 brønn. Stavanger: Oljedirektoratet: 80.
Lerøen, B., & Statoil. (2002). Dråper av svart gull : Statoil 1972-2002. Stavanger: Statoil: 144.
Hanisch, T., Nerheim, G., & Norsk petroleumsforening. (1992). Fra vantro til overmot? (Vol. 1). Oslo: Leseselskape: 375.
Brent discoveredStatoil arrives on the scene