Organisational changes

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
After the most hectic development phase had been completed on Frigg and Heimdal, these fields moved into the operations or production phase. This called for a restructuring of the organisation and improvements to its efficiency.
— The radio room at QP. Photo: TotalFinaElf/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Elf started to cut costs in the autumn of 1985 through a determined downsizing. There was no way a workforce about 1 600 strong could be maintained in Norway.

Forecasts showed that production from Frigg would gradually decline, and could cease altogether around 1995.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S, annual report for 1985, p 40: Elf today. The oil price slump in 1986 prompted oil companies in general to cut back their activities, with downsizing and rationalisation becoming an international trend. A marked decline in the Elf Aquitaine Norge workforce can be seen in the graph below, from 1 600 in 1985 to roughly 1 000 in 1991.

The workforce expanded somewhat between 1991 and 1994 because of the Lille-Frigg and Frøy developments.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Elf Aquitaine Norge, annual report for 1992, p 8: Employees By the early 1900s, however, it had become clear that the profitability of Frigg production was in decline. A shutdown of the whole field would only be a few years off unless operating costs could be reduced. Project 94 was launched to adapt the organisation to a lower level of profitability. With the aid of severance packages and early retirement, the number of employees in Elf was reduced from 1 039 at the start of 1994 to 873 by 31 December 1995.

The Change 97 campaign began in September 1996 as a continuation of the downsizing process, with attractive severance packages. By the end of 1997, the workforce had been reduced to 558 people. Yet another process involved the transfer of 99 employees to Norsk Hydro in connection with the latter’s takeover of the Heimdal operatorship on 1 January 1998.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Elf Petroleum Norge, annual report 1997, employees and organisation.

In connection with the downsizing, an extensive restructuring of the operations organisation and production philosophy for Frigg was implemented in 1997. This Future Operations (Futop) project was pursued by Elf’s own organisation. Offshore technicians, for instance, were actively involved in its planning and execution.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Hansen, Christian: From a Chinese butterfly to nails. Paper at the 23rd World Gas Conference, Amsterdam, 2006. All preventive maintenance was subjected to a critical assessment, which resulted in a 41 per cent reduction in the maintenance programme. A maintenance assessment showed that only 10-15 per cent of material damage and faults were so important for continued operation that they had to be immediately repaired. The rest could wait until a specialist team was mobilised.

A new organisational model was implemented, with a flatter structure. This involved removing a number of middle managers and establishing multiskilled teams with extensive self-management and responsibility. Operating costs for Frigg were reduced by about 40 per cent compared with the early 1990s. Elf Petroleum Norge’s annual report for 1998 assumed that Frigg would shut down on 1 October 2001, but the restructuring helped to keep operation of the field profitable until the autumn of 2004.

In order to enhance flexibility during the final production phase, a contract for Frigg maintenance was signed with Aker. The latter had long experience of contractual work on the field, with employees stationed out there for a number of years. Part of the Elf workforce was transferred to Aker, but remained on Frigg. The move to Aker meant that they could be shifted to other fields as the Frigg workforce was downsized. Maintenance, modifications and support functions thereby came to be largely performed by contractor personnel who were well acquainted with Frigg.[REMOVE]Fotnote:



Published August 3, 2018   •   Updated July 29, 2020
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