Several reasons accounted for these constant delays, but the most important was the steady shift in Norwegian oil policy towards greater state involvement. Direct government participation had been unthinkable in the first round. Politicians also advised private Norwegian companies against becoming involved in such a risky business.
By the second round, when awards were made after the discovery of Cod, a demand for risk-free government participation was being made. Several new factors had emerged ahead of the third round. The most significant was the discovery of Ekofisk, and the politicians had woken up. With Rolf Hjellem in the lead, the standing committee on industry in the Storting (parliament) had formulated the “10 oil commandments” which called for oil resources to serve national purposes and for the participation of Norwegian industry to be facilitated.
A total of 32 blocks were put on offer, mostly between the 59th and 62nd parallels and along the boundary with the UKCS. By the deadline of 17 September, 47 applications had been received from 175 companies. Acreage sought by Petronord included the popular “silver” block, 30/6 (Oseberg), 29/9-30/7 (Hild) and 34/8.
The water depth on the last of these blocks was 300-380 metres, but Petronord maintained that it had made big strides in developing deepwater technology and thereby had the required expertise. Hydro was to act as the group’s operator in specified blocks. The company’s willingness to take on this role was regarded by Petronord as positive for securing acceptance of its application.
Awards were made in several stages between November 1974 and June 1978, with a total of 30 blocks allocated. Promising acreage along the median line with the UK were earmarked for the three Norwegian companies – state-owned Statoil, partly state-owned Hydro and privately-owned Saga Petroleum.
They secured operatorship for 71 per cent of blocks. In all the blocks where Statoil itself did not become operator, it participated with a 50 per cent carried interest – in other words, the company made no financial contribution to exploration operations. A base was to be laid for the Norwegian oil companies.
Statoil became operator for nine of the blocks and Hydro for six. Elf was appointed technical assistant to Hydro for two of the latter’s operatorships, which meant that the French company was required to provide support should Hydro need this. Petronord made no commercial discoveries in the blocks in which it secured interests.Frigg main agreementDiscovery of East Frigg