Everyday life and work

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Having a job on Frigg, far out to sea and midway between the UK and Norway, was a distinctive experience.
— Frigg field in calm, flat sea. Photo: Total/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The location created a very special setting for life at work. Frigg can best be described as a separate community which existed in parallel with society at large. It became a second home to many of those employed there. In addition to being workmates, people also lived cheek by jowl.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
Billiards at Frigg. Photo: Robert P. Johannessen/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Life offshore consisted mainly of working, eating and sleeping, as well as a few hours for leisure activities. Contact with family and friends on land was limited to phone calls or letters. The transition from home life to the Frigg community and culture began with the flight offshore. By donning a survival suit and boarding the helicopter, people left their shore lives and re-focused on the culture and community of this second home. They stayed remote from happenings on land until the survival suit was shed on their return.

TCP2 installeres på feltet, forsidebilde, historie,
TCP2 installed on the field. The "Treasure Supporter" flotel in the background. Photo: TotalFinaElf/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Frigg had many features in common with the other platform complexes on the Norwegian continental shelf. Workplaces and accommodation were virtually identical everywhere. The same system of offshore tours, with a long period of work followed by lengthy spell of free time, was practised throughout the North Sea. But the environment and working conditions on Frigg nevertheless had some special features, a distinctive social setting. The oil business in Norway was characterised during its early phase by an Anglo-American culture, with the US majors dominating. Frigg had a French operator, and thereby a leadership with a Gallic work and management culture.

Stories were told from other fields about Norwegian workers who were fired one day and threatened with the first helicopter home, before being forgiven the following day. That leadership style was unknown on Frigg. The French management had different ways of making its authority felt. This culture also influenced the Frigg community in other ways.

So what were working conditions and everyday life like on the platform complex straddling the boundary between Norway and the UK and operated by a company from France?

A job on Frigg also had a number of features in common with industrial workplaces on land – a refinery, for instance. That relates particularly to the technology employed. But it also had numerous parallels with shipping, another 24-hour society. Construction work was characterised by commuting and changing workforces as assignments such as development or drilling were completed. That applied especially to personnel from contractor and service companies.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Karlsen, Jan Erik, Arbeidsvern på sokkelen, Universitetsforlaget 1982.

Even with a workplace far from home, opportunities existed for daily contact with the wider world through phones, newspapers and TV. These improved over time. In the early years, getting a phone line to land was difficult and no direct TV transmissions existed.

Patrice de Wangen, who worked on Frigg from 1980, reports: “It could be difficult to begin with. We only had a limited number of lines then. There were phone booths. If you were delayed, you ran the risk of not getting a line until very late. After 10 minutes, the pips sounded and you had to hang up. Contact with land wasn’t easy, and the community became a bit isolated.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Patrice de Wangen.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
Photo: Jan A. Tjemsland/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The installation of more phone lines in the 1980s, and not least the arrival of satellite TV, made a marked difference to opportunities for participating in life ashore. Although phones were never installed in cabins, open lines became available in the offices. It was never hard to get a line out. The internet and e-mail also provided opportunities for most people. That helped to narrow the distance between life at work and at home.

Frigg employees could find that their workplace seemed remote to families and friends on land. It was hard to envisage what life was like on the platforms. So Elf organised “wife excursions”. Spouses flew out on a day trip by helicopter, and tours were organised to show them what the place was like. Known as “pink flights”, these outings were staged in the spring when the weather was at its best. They became very popular.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Patrice de Wangen.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
The nurses Svanhild Rolfsen (left) and Marit Høiland. Photo: TotalFina Elf/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Women came early to Frigg, but remained a minority. The field acquired the first permanent female employee on the NCS in 1978, when Svanhild Rolfsen arrived. She recalls: “I was the only woman to start with, and I actually only have good memories of that time. More arrived eventually, but there were never many of us.”

Views on women offshore were divided, but they soon became a natural part of life on the platform, as Rolfsen observes. “To begin with, some of the workers were sceptical about female nurse. They probably wondered a bit about what type of woman could join this “masculine society”, but it didn’t take long before I was accepted … A lot of men weren’t used to seeing women out on the field, but such attitudes disappeared over time. Many undoubtedly appreciated that the field became more like an ordinary community rather than a rough male society. Elf was good at facilitating conditions for women, and its emphasis was on competence. Changing rooms and other facilities were provided for both sexes. When I arrived on the field, conditions were better than I’d expected.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Svanhild Rolfsen.

Offshore installation manager Christian Hansen on Frigg confirms this picture: “It’s correct that facilities for women were made available from an early stage. One thing which happened when the women came out was that people washed more frequently. The Frenchmen were dubious about having women offshore, since they thought it would create unrest and problems.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Christian Hansen.

Shifts and reliefs

Production continued around the clock on Frigg. The process never stopped, and everyone worked a 12-hour shift. A number of jobs, primarily production, catering and communications, involved both day and night shifts. The working day ran from 07.00 to 19.00 for the day shift, and from 19.00 to 07.00 for the night crew. Nurses had fixed working hours during the day, but were on call around the clock. Being in reserve the whole time for 14 days at a stretch was a strain both mentally and physically.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Svanhild Rolfsen. Maintenance personnel worked only during the day.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
A Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter has landed on the QP platform. Passengers leave the cabin and pick up their luggage on the go. Photo: Jan A. Tjemsland/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The length of an offshore tour compared with time spent on land varied during Frigg’s history, but the tend has been towards increasing leisure. When the field began production in 1977-78, most people worked eight days on Frigg and then had eight days off ashore. That changed to two weeks at work and two weeks free, and then two weeks on, three weeks off. Towards the end of the production period, time on land had risen to four weeks with 14 days offshore.

These transitions between day and night shifts and between offshore tours and periods on land led to constants changes in personnel. Much time was devoted to communicating between the different tours/shifts through reporting and log-keeping. To ensure the best possible communication, overlapping was practised between certain functions – in other words, a tour team was gradually relieved rather than everyone being replaced on the same day.

Safety and working environment problems or other issues affecting the workplace were largely resolved at a weekly safety delegate meeting, where all work teams were represented. Elf required every contractor to have its own safety delegate while it was working on Frigg. Also present were Elf’s chief safety delegate, a management representative and the nurse. These meetings were part of the safety philosophy on Frigg.

Jan Erik Karlsen, head of research at Stavanger’s former Rogaland Research institute, highlights the safety delegate meetings on Frigg in his book on offshore occupational safety.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Karlsen, Jan Erik: Arbeidsvern på sokkelen. Arbeidsmiljø, faglig strategi og vernesamarbeid i oljevirksomheten. Universitetsforlaget 1982. p 204. He maintains that they were the most important forum for problem-solving. Although the meeting had no legal status and accordingly did not qualify as a working environment committee, all important safety and working environment issues were discussed there. Cases of common interest were solved quickly and without major frictions.

Ragnar Fanebust, chief shop steward in the former Norwegian Oil and Petrochemical Workers Union (Nopef), has also said that the safety delegate meetings functioned well for both safety and working environment issues. According to him, the system of weekly meetings where everyone was represented unquestionably provided the best solution for safety work by comparison with any other offshore field in the world. “We have an example here of what can be achieved when the employer meets us half-way.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Ragnar Fanebust in “Verneombudet, tillitsmannen og fagforeningen fra 1981”, referred to in Karlsen, Jan Erik; Arbeidsvern på sokkelen. Arbeidsmiljø, faglig strategi og vernesamarbeid i oljevirksomheten. Universitetsforlaget 1982. p 204.


arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
Frigg's security assistant, Reidar Thornes, checking a fire extinguisher. Photo: Unknown/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Viewed from outside, the Frigg workplace could appear hazardous. Working offshore always involved a certain level of danger, not least because people were transported to and from land by helicopter. Safety accordingly had a high priority.

Rolfsen believes Elf took safety seriously from the start. “I’m proud that my employer has had such a fine safety attitude from an early stage. In my view, we’ve avoided many injuries and incidents because of that. I’ve now worked offshore for 29 years, and don’t think I could have stood it if I’d felt that safety wasn’t a top priority in my workplace.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Svanhild Rolfsen.

The workforce lived and slept on the quarters platform (QP), which stood some distance from the gas flows and processing facilities. Many also worked on this installation. Unlike a lot of other platforms on the NCS and the wellhead platform on Frigg, where the quarters module stood on top of or close to the processing plant, workers in the complex could sleep safe in the knowledge that no highly flammable gas was flowing right underneath them. As an extra precaution, a firewall was installed on TP1 where it faced QP to prevent a possible blaze from spreading.

Boligplattformen QP
Quarters Platform - QP. Photo: Jan A. Tjemsland/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Although safety was always in focus, everyone who worked on Frigg was aware that a potential threat of a blowout, explosion or fire would always exist. Highly flammable gas came up under high pressure, and it would not take much for everything to blow up. This meant that safety thinking was always at the forefront for the workforce. A series of incidents reminded people about the forces which had to be kept under control.

A fire broke out in 1992 in a methanol cabinet in one of the TCP2 shafts. Because procedures were observed, this blaze was brought under control after 90 minutes and never developed into an acute threat to those present. But such an event brought home how easily uncontrolled incidents could occur. Had the fire spread to the gas flow arriving under high pressure from the wells, it could have caused a disaster. Everyone working on Frigg was aware of what had happened on Britain’s Piper Alpha gas platform in 1988. This installation was tied into the UK gas pipeline from Frigg to St Fergus. When it exploded as a result of a gas leak, 167 people were killed.

Processing facilities

Prosessplattformen TP1, engelsk,
The process area on TP1 a cold winter day. Photo: Total/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Operators on Frigg constantly faced fresh challenges as a result of new developments and tie-ins to the production process. “We mustn’t forget that Frigg has consisted of far more than the main field,” observes Torbjørn Olsen, an operator on the field since 1977. “North-East Frigg, Odin, Alwyn and East Frigg were tied in. After Odin and North-East Frigg had ceased production, Lille-Frigg and Frøy were brought on stream. A lot happened all the time on Frigg, and it ended up as a big process. Lille-Frigg was a subsea development with a pressure as high as 7-800 bar, for instance. That presented special challenges.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Torbjørn Olsen.

The production process continued by and large without major problems on Frigg. As a result, the operators could appear to have a straightforward and occasionally monotonous job. A number of them found that much of their time was spent waiting for orders from the central control room on QP. Although production operators might have little to do at times, however, they were expected to show independence of mind and an ability to make quick judgements if faults occurred with any of the equipment. They had to respond very swiftly and accurately on such occasions.

Monotony at work was a safety hazard. Important changes might be overlooked. Even small variations could be highly significant.

The processing facilities on Frigg were managed from a control room on QP. To secure variation in the working day and to ensure that operators had an overview of the whole Frigg process, a number of them rotated between different workplaces. They spent periods in the production complex, swapping between process plant and control room. At other times, they worked on the wellhead platforms.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
Morning meeting for the operating unit at QP. Photo: Jan A. Tjemsland/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Coffee breaks were socially important. They were held at fixed times in the QP control room, reports Torbjørn Olsen. “The coffee breaks were at 09.00 and 15.00. That was when people got together, with the electricians and mechanics also dropping in. Many didn’t like work-related talk during these breaks, but they provided a great opportunity to raise problems on busy days.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Torbjørn Olsen.

If somebody needed an extra break, coffee and fruit were always available. Coffee points had also been provided out in the process plant. A number of the operators were able to cultivate their hobbies, from knitting and writing to carving, during quiet periods when they merely had to keep an eye on things.

Language and cultural differences

A special feature of Frigg was the presence of three nationalities, with different cultures and languages. The field straddled the boundary line between the UK and Norway, and the operator was French. Communication challenges related to cultural variations, language differences and organisational divisions.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
Christmas celebration at Frigg QP. Photo: Erling Hellesund

English was the official language, since that seemed the only viable option for an organisation comprising French, British and Norwegian workers in an industry where an Anglo-American tradition had become dominant. In practice, both French and Norwegian were used – particularly when speaking but also in writing.

A number of the French personnel were initially unable to speak English, and so communicated with each other largely in their own language. That severely restricted communication between the French platform management and the Norwegian workforce. A Norwegianisation process occurred during the 1980s. The management became Norwegian, and the division between Norwegian and French culture weakened. But differences did persist, and manifested themselves in various ways.

“A total of seven-eight nationalities could be present,” recalls Hansen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Christian Hansen.“One distinction was that Norwegians took things very calmly. When a problem arose, they could sit quietly and think until they had solved it. The French became more hysterical, and leapt around. But the Norwegians usually arrived at a solution just as quickly. The British were somewhere between these extremes. They are polite, and the French fairly polite.”

The British seemed to manage fairly well in relation to both Norwegians and French. They had a particularly strong presence on the CDP1 wellhead platform, but were more thinly spread on the other installations. That helped to determine how the various nationalities interacted. The British turned up by and large to every meal, ate together, and played snooker in their free time. The French played cards. Since Norwegians formed the great majority, they divided to a greater extent by job. Creating unity in such a setting represented a challenge.

“Differences between the various nationalities became less marked over time, but they were still there” says Rolfsen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Svanhild Rolfsen. “That included attitudes to women. If a woman is carrying something heavy, a Briton will normally offer to take it for them, while a Norwegian will just say “hi” as they sweep past. We had a French management in the early years on Frigg, which didn’t initially understand the safety delegate system. They found it incomprehensible that an ordinary worker could stop hazardous work simply because that person was a safety delegate. Eventually, however, they came to value the system. All in all, the French management has been very good. It’s been part of the Frigg culture to speak out to management. Everyone on the field wore a white hard hat, regardless of their position.”

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
The music room at QP was often in use. Photo: Total/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

One characteristic feature of working life on Frigg was the sense of solidarity and loyalty to the field and to operator Elf. The solidarity arose partly from the isolation of the workplace and the fact that the same people were together on each tour. They were concentrated in a small area, with no opportunity to withdraw. That left little or no room for a private life. The same workers spent much of their lives together, both at work and in the limited free time they had offshore.

Loyalty to the field and respect for Elf applied not only to the operator’s own employees, but also to contractor personnel. As mentioned above, the latter were represented on equal terms along with everyone else on the platforms at the safety delegate meetings. But contract workers were also included in other ways.

Erling Hellesund, an ESS steward and a contractor employee on Frigg for many years, describes his perception of the community as follows: “The sense of community on Frigg was very good, and collaboration with Elf quite fantastic. You were never bounced off a helicopter flight because an Elf employee needed to go offshore or to land, which could happen elsewhere. All welfare provision extended to every permanent employee on the platform, and not just Elf staff. When Elf celebrate an anniversary, catering personnel and other permanent workers on Frigg were invited and had their travel and accommodation expenses covered for themselves and their spouses. Permanent catering staff on Frigg were included in the Elf/Total bonus scheme and received a final payout of NOK 20 000 on equal terms with Elf employees.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Erling Hellesund.

“One reason for the good community spirit was that we were largely the same people, both Elf employees and contractor personnel,” adds Olsen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Torbjørn Olsen. “The contractors on Frigg were treated the same as Elf staff. They were treated well.”

Well-being and food

Many aspects helped to bind the workforce together, regardless of nationality, position or company which employed them. A lot of effort was devoted to creating solidarity on Frigg. The most important single factor was food. Frigg had a North Sea reputation for good cuisine, and Elf made a big commitment in this area. French chefs were aboard from the first day until the field was shut down. The raw materials were always fresh, flown in if necessary. Special dishes were often served in unexpected settings for activities and entertainment, such as a prawn party on the helideck, Mexican evenings and so forth – not to mention such occasions as Christmas, New Year and Norway’s Constitution Day on 17 May. The Irish say that those who eat and drink together, stick together. That certainly seems to have been the case on Frigg.

A bar was also provided on QP, serving coffee, mineral water and non-alcoholic beer and wine. The day’s papers were flown in. Uniquely for platforms on the NCS, red wine was served with meals on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. This helped the workforce to feel valued.

arbeidsliv, Arbeidsliv og dagligliv,
The cinema hall on the QP platform. This evening there was a football match on the program. Photo: Jan A. Tjemsland/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Facilities were provided for a number of leisure activities. The bingo games held every other Saturday were popular, and everyone attended. Entertainers were also flown from land. A well-equipped music room, gym and cinema were provided. Snooker, as mentioned above, and darts were popular leisure activities and the subject of competitions. That was not unique for Frigg, but applied generally to Norwegian offshore platforms.

The way leisure time was organised on Frigg changed over the 27 years when the field was on stream. A particular change in social patterns occurred after TV had been installed in every cabin. Before that, “everyone” was in the public areas – playing snooker, cards or darts, relaxing in the bar or reading newspapers – or the cinema. Afterwards, more and more people withdrew to their own cabins. Many feel that this weakened social life and solidarity. Others would argue that it was good to be able to relax in one’s own cabin, without being forced to be social all day. When people lived and worked as closely together as they did on Frigg, it could be good to have an opportunity to withdraw.

“This was a very disciplined community, and people had nowhere to be alone,” observes Rolfsen.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Interview with Svanhild Rolfsen. “You flew out together, lived together, ate together, sat in the recreation room together, in the gym, the smoking room, at work. Other people were everywhere, in fact. I’ve decided that an offshore worker has to be a very flexible and tolerant person to cope with all this. It’s not surprising that you’re pretty tired and worn out after a 14-day tour.”

As mentioned already, Frigg had many features in common with workplaces on other platforms. Everyone who works offshore is away from family and friends for extended periods, is involved in a business which continues around the clock, and must accept that they are in a hazardous workplace. But Frigg had its distinctive features. Elf was early in appreciating the relationship between safety and the environment. The weekly safety delegate meetings discussed all issues relating to these aspects, and measures were quickly adopted. This contributed to the sense of security felt by the Frigg workforce.

Another element highlighted on Frigg was well-being. Through food, the provision of facilities and a generous budget, a lot was done for employee welfare. This has played a part in cultivating the loyalty which most people – both Elf employees and contractor personnel – felt to both field and operator.

The distinctive community which emerged on Frigg can undoubtedly be attributed to the mix of nationalities which characterised the field. That embraced a management with a French work culture and welfare mindset, and the mix of Norwegian and British workers. This cultural blend posed a challenge for operating the field, which was successfully overcome. The special Frigg culture was created.

Published October 11, 2020   •   Updated October 21, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

Location of the Frigg archive

person Torkel Time and Vigdis Bergstad
The Frigg archive is located at the National Archives in Stavanger and consists primarily of two sections - Total E&P Norway's records and the records of the Elf Aquitaine Norge Offshore Union (Eanof).

As a result of mergers, the Total archiveconsists in turn of a number of sections. Many departments and offices have also had separate sets of records. These documents deal not only with Frigg, but also with the company’s ordinary operations. The Eanof archive also comprises several sections – the union’s own correspondence files, materials from the chief safety delegate and the transactions of the working environment committee. Material from Elf Aquitaine Norway is also included, since union representatives sat on the company’s board.

ccr-log-aUnder a deposition agreement with Total E&P Norge AS, the National Archives in Stavanger has undertaken to store the material even though it formally remains the property of the records creator. Legal rules on confidentiality will be observed, but enquiries about access to and use of the archive will be considered by the company until a possible future amendment to the agreement.

beskjedbok-forsideBefore the material was sorted, it filled 160 metres of shelving. Rearrangement has reduced this by 50 per cent. The selection aims to document a cross-section of Frigg activities – not only material relating directly to development and operation of the field but also necessary contextual documentation. Space has accordingly been given to land-based operations and general company history. Furthermore, efforts have been made to concentrate on internal company records not found elsewhere. Little of the information reported to the Norwegian authorities (the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and the ministries) has been conserved by this project. It will nevertheless become lodged with the National Archives’ records when these government document collections are transferred there.

canonclub-kortThe National Archives has only selected 140 technical drawings produced in connection with the construction and operation of the Frigg field’s installations, a tiny percentage of the total. These include flow diagrams, elevations, deck cross-sections and diagrams of well and piping tracks.

Other sets of records at the National Archives in Stavanger also contain materials dealing with Frigg. The most important are the records of the NPD and the Ministry of Industry’s oil office. The latter embraces material transferred in its time to the NPD and subsequently passed on the National Archives.

Overview of the Total E&P Norge Archive

Total E&P Norge consisted originally of the Total, Fina and Elf Norge companies. Elf Norge was originally called Petropar A/S from 1965, but changed its name in 1967. Elf Norge became part of Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S in 1977 (previously Sociète Nationale Elf Aquitaine – SNEA). The company changed its name to Elf Petroleum A/S in 1992. Total Norge A/S and Fina Exploration Norge SA merged in 2000. Elf Petroleum also became part of this company in 2001. It was known as TotalFinaElf until 2003, when its official name was changed to Total E&P Norge A/S.

The French company Elf discovered Frigg in block 25/1 in 1971, and became responsible for its development and operation. Frigg ranked at the time as the world’s largest offshore gas field. It straddled the UK-Norwegian boundary line, and accordingly became a collaboration between Britain and Norway (40 per cent UK, 60 per cent Norwegian). The platforms were divided between the two sectors. Plans called for the quarters platform (QP) to stand entirely on the UK side of the boundary, but 10 metres of one corner extended into the Norwegian sector. The two countries nevertheless agreed on a practical boundary midway along the bridge between treatment platform 1 (TP1) and treatment and compression platform 2 (TCP2). A sign on this bridge marked the frontier between Britain and Norway. The boundary provided an opportunity for duty-free sales on QP. TP1, TCP2 and QP collectively formed the core Frigg platforms, also known as the Frigg complex. Drilling platform 2 (DP2) and the flare platform (FP) on the Norwegian side plus concrete drilling platform 1 (CDP1) and manifold compression platform 01 (MCP-01) in the UK sector comprised the remaining Frigg installations. The Frigg area also embraced the North-East Frigg (NEF), East Frigg (EF) and Lille-Frigg (LF) satellites.

Records creator: Pa 1362 – Total E&P Norge
Former names: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S, Elf Norge. Elf Petroleum Norge A/S, Petropar A/S, TotalFinaElf, TotalFinaElf Exploration Norge A/S
Period: 1967-2007
History: period from 1965 (about) to 2007 (about)
Scope: 80 shelf metres
Access restriction: Restricted private archive, access given to former archive owners.

Description of the archive:
The records have a range of provenances because of all the mergers (see history) and because many offices and departments established their own archives (including two offices when the company was called Elf Norge – one for administration in Oslo and the other for technical activities in Stavanger). Elf Aquitaine Norge created the bulk of the archive, but since no sharp division by periods was made at the time of the mergers, it has been difficult to separate out the Elf records. It is very hard to document the original structure of the archive. Various departments and individuals in Elf have delivered material for which they were responsible, but which they did not necessarily create, to the remote archive. The latter has recorded which department supplied the material. This has often provided the basis for structuring the records into series. Other archives were delivered from the relevant department, which has in turn formed the basis for structuring the series. The material is a selection covering 160 shelf metres (unsorted) made in connection with the Frigg industrial heritage project. This choice was made from several thousand shelf-metres in all. Weight was given to documenting the human side of the activity. The technical/production aspects of the business will largely be documented in the NPD archive. Preserving documents found only in the company’s archive has also been a priority. Information reported to the authorities will be found in the relevant government records. The archive documents not only the Frigg field, which was in operation from 1977-99, but also the company’s regular activities. In this way, activities on Frigg are located in a necessary and broader company context. The series, item and folder descriptions are in both Norwegian and English. The records have largely retained their original titles. Their content is largely in Norwegian and English, but includes some documents in French.

Overview of the Eanof Archive

The Elf Aquitaine Norge Offshore Union (Eanof) was established in 1977. It was (and remained in 2007) part of the Norwegian Union of Energy Workers (Safe), previously the Federation of Oil Workers? Trade Unions (OFS) and before that the Union of Operator Employees (OAF).

Records creator: Pa 1415 – Elf Aquitaine Norge Offshore Forening (Eanof)
Period: 1977-2003
Scope: 17.8 shelf metres

Description of the archive:
The records probably have several provenances, because they also contain material from the chief safety delegate (Hovedvernombudet – HVO) and the working environment committee (Arbeidsmiljøutvalg – AMU) in Elf/Total. Eanof officials are likely to have also been represented in the HVO and AMU, or to have received copies of documents within their ambit. Moreover, the achieve includes a number of documents from Elf Aquitaine Norge, including board documents. The union had representatives on the company’s board. As finally organised, the material fills 17.8 shelf metres. The bulk is organised by subject. The correspondence files are organised by file index, and some of the internal memos are arranged in accordance with the National Archives’ own filing system (see the series description).

Overview over David Robert Bayly archive

Bayly started keeping a note book at the end of 1974 initially to assist him in organising his work as the principle structural auditor for the Dunlin A concrete substructure. Initially the note books containing very brief details of events including actions to be taken, facts not to be forgotten, documents received etc. Entries were made as and when necessary and not on a daily basis.

Bayly started keeping a note book at the end of 1974 initially to assist him in organising his work as the principle structural auditor for the Dunlin A concrete substructure. Initially the note books containing very brief details of events including actions to be taken, facts not to be forgotten, documents received etc.  Entries were made as and when necessary and not on a daily basis. Over time a more structured approach was adopted and soon entries were made on a regular basis for most working days.  The day books, usually referred to throughout his working life as his “Black Books” (although for a period they were red!), include records of conversations, notes taken at meetings, lists of things to do, pasted-in notes from his secretary, details of travel arrangements and, since 1993, details of his working arrangements in Norway.  As well as a record of his professional activities the day books also contain a number of entries relating to personnel matters, particularly church activities. The vast majority of the entries in the day books were made at the time the events occurred and no efforts have been made to provide a summary or commentary on the events.  The purpose of the day books was to simply record what factual information not to record events for posterity. The primary reason for recording the minutiae of his working life in a day book has not changed since David first started in 1974.  The purpose, he says, is “to assist me in effectively organising my work and to provide me with a record of actions, conversations and meetings that might be helpful to me in the future”.

Records creator: David Robert Bayly
Born in Catford in South East London. Father Paul W. Bayly, shipping clerk in a firm of oil and seed brokers, mother Alice Violet Bayly. Family life centred on the local Baptist church. Still actively involved in church life. Education: City University London – BSc (Hons) (1962 – 1966), City University London – PhD (1966 – 1969). Married Doreen Janet Cliffe in 1967, 3 children. Working Background: City University London (1969 – 1971 lecturer in the theory of structures), Pell Frischmann Group (1971 – 1994), Crandon Consultants Ltd (1994 -). Involved in the offshore oil and gas industry since 1973. 1977 to 1993 he was responsible for the technical and commercial management of many design projects including topside modules and decks, steel jackets and subsea production facilities in both the northern and southern basins of the North Sea. He also supervised numerous field development and specialist studies including complex stress analyses of pressure vessels and valves on the Frigg Field platforms. In 1993 he came to Stavanger to assist Elf Norge in the preparation of a safety case for the Frigg Field UK platforms as required by the new UK regulations brought in following the Piper Alpha disaster. He has commuted to Norway on a weekly basis. In 1994 he became an independent consultant working mostly for Elf Norge. 1994 – 1996 he was an “integrated contractor” in the Engineering Department of Elf Norge involved in managing risk analyses for the Frigg Field. In 1997 he moved to the HSEQ Management Department of Elf Norge and was responsible for the preparation of Safety Case submissions to the UK Health and Safety Executive and Applications for Consent to the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway. He has been involved in numerous risk analyses and, since 1999, has been part of the team responsible for the decommissioning of the Frigg Field production facilities.

Overview of the Oil Office Archive

Those parts of the archive described here were transferred in their time from the Ministry of Industry to the NPD, and subsequently delivered to the National Archives in Stavanger. The rest of the industry ministry?s archive has been delivered to the National Archive in Oslo. The records primarily comprise documents related to the activities of the oil office, but include materials from before the creation of this body ? probably from the continental shelf committee and the State Petroleum Council.

Records creator:
Ministry of Industry, oil office, Ministry of Industry, oil and mining department, oil office.
Period: 1966-1978

As a result of the large increase in oil-related business, it proved necessary in 1966 to establish a separate oil office in the Ministry of Industry. Government consideration of continental shelf issues had previously rested with the ministry’s mining office. A continental shelf committee appointed by the Crown Prince Regent’s decree of 8 November 1963 supported the ministry in preparing legislation and regulations. The State Petroleum Council was established by royal decree of 9 April 1965 to support the ministry as an advisory body concerning exploration for and exploitation of submarine petroleum deposits on the NCS. This council was the licence-awarding authority when blocks were  handed out in the first offshore licensing round. The industry ministry acquired its own oil and mining department in 1972. The oil office comprises two sections, for technical and geological aspects respectively. The NPD was also established in 1972.

Overview of the NPD Archive

The archive consists of minutes of meetings, memos and correspondence files. These are arranged in such a way that the original archive structure has been retained ? in other words, it accords systematically with the file index used by the NPD. The NPD?s correspondence files are periodised annually.

All correspondence categories can accordingly be found in each annual set. Records begin in 1973 when the NPD became operational, but some documents from 1972 (the DWP project) are included. The correspondence file contains a general section and a section organised alphabetically by approved discovery and field name and by transport systems. An annual set can cover a large number of boxes. Records which lacked a file code have been organised in series E. See also the A-101348 archive, which contains documents from the Ministry of Industry’s oil office in the 1963-75 period. This material was transferred to the National Archives in Stavanger in 2003.

Records creator: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate
Period: 1972-
History: Legal authority and area of jurisdiction: The Storting (parliament) resolved on 14 June 1972 to establish a petroleum directorate in Stavanger to regulate oil and gas discoveries on the Norwegian continental shelf.
Predecessors: Before the NPD was created, government consideration of continental shelf issues was handled by the mining office of the Ministry of Industry. A continental shelf committee appointed by the Crown Prince Regent’s decree of 8 November 1963 supported the ministry in preparing legislation and regulations. The State Petroleum Council was established by royal decree of 9 April 1965 to support the ministry as an advisory body concerning exploration for and exploitation of submarine petroleum deposits on the NCS. This council was the licence-awarding authority for the first offshore licensing round. A big expansion in the volume of business prompted the creation of a separate oil office in the ministry in 1966, and the latter acquired its own oil and mining department in 1972.

Administrative placement: Petroleum and energy issues were transferred in 1978 from the industry ministry to a new Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. Constitutional responsibility for issues relating to safety, the working environment and emergency preparedness on the NCS was transferred in 1979 from the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to the Ministry of Labour and Local Government. This meant that the NPD subsequently answered to two ministries. The working environment and safety department of the Ministry of Local and Regional Government was formally transferred to the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration on 1 April 2001. Where carbon dioxide issues are concerned, the NPD derives its authority from the Ministry of Finance.

Functions: The NPD was given overall authority to regulate, carry out total safety assessments for and issue regulations governing the petroleum activity. A branch office was established at Harstad in connection with the start of exploration drilling off northern Norway.

Successors: The NPD was divided into two independent regulatory bodies in 2004: the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, responsible for safety and the working environment, and the NPD in charge of administering petroleum resources.

Published August 2, 2018   •   Updated August 2, 2018
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

Deliveries to development

person Gunleiv Hadland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
French oil company Elf led the development of Frigg, and was accordingly responsible for awarding the required contracts. These assignments were largely split between France, Norway and the UK, but deliveries also came from the USA and other countries.
— TP1 modules under construction in France. Photo: TotalFinaElf/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

From the early 1970s, the Norwegian government was already giving weight to promoting domestic companies as suppliers to the oil industry. Conditions on establishing offices in Norway and the use of Norwegian suppliers were included in the licensing rounds which awarded acreage on the Norwegian continental shelf. While these political guidelines helped to set a more national stamp on the oil industry, the Norwegianisation process took time and did not make itself fully felt until the 1980s.

In the late 1970s, the Frigg development was one of the projects reviewed in a cost analysis of such activity on the NCS. A number of developments had found costs rising sharply compared with initial estimates, and an official inquiry – known as the Moe commission – was appointed to establish the reasons. This body submitted a wide-ranging report in 1980 on progress in the various development projects on the NCS, under the title Cost analysis on the NCS.

 Phase  NOR  FRA  UK  USA  Others
 Phase I, britisk side 1973-1977  17 %  37 %  22 %  16 %   8 %
 Phase II, norsk side 1974-1978  33 %  39 %   7 %  13 %   8 %
 Phase III,  compression facilities 1978-1981  53 %  29 %   6 %   6 %   6 %
 Total distribution  26 %  37 %  15 %  13 %   8 %


Fordeling av Frigg-kontraktene pr. høsten 1978.
Tabell satt opp av Elf til Kostnadsanalysen bind 2, s.104

This report identified a number of factors which could lead to overruns.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Distribution of Frigg contracts to the autumn of 1978. The table was prepared by Elf for the Moe commission’s
report (vol 2, p 104).

One was the country responsible for the delivery, as shown in the table above. Data in the cost analysis showed that about 26 per cent of total deliveries for the Frigg development came from Norway and 37 per cent from France. While the latter accordingly accounted for the biggest share overall, it is worth noting that the Norwegian proportion increased during the development phase.

TP1 installeres, forsidebilde, historie,
The TP1 platform under construction at Ardyne Point in Scotland in 1976. Photo: TotalFinaElf/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

The project was divided into phases. Phase I covered the development of the British share of the field, phase II the work on the Norwegian side, and phase III the installation of the compressors. During phase I and the first part of the second phase, Norwegian involvement was relatively modest apart from local services. One exception was the construction of the concrete gravity base structure (GBS) for the pumping platform, which was later converted to the first drilling installation (CDP1). The GBS was built in Åndalsnes by Norwegian Contractors on behalf of the French Doris group. Suppliers in Norway had an advantage in delivering this type of structure, which called for deep fjords for construction and short distances for towing. A corresponding commitment on the UK side occurred with the construction of Frigg’s TP1 platform in Scotland. The GBS for MCP-01 was built in Sweden because this country had the construction capacity needed.

Leveranser til utbyggingen, økonomi og samfunn,
TCP2 surrounded by the mighty nature of Åndalsnes. The platform is near completion and can soon be towed out to the Frigg field. Photo: Unknown/Total/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

In phase II, the Norwegian share of orders increased from 17 to 33 per cent, whilst Britain’s proportion sank from 22 to seven per cent. This was primarily because Norwegian Contractors secured the contract to design and construct the GBS and module support frame for the second treatment and compression platform (TCP2). This structure was again built at Åndalsnes. Part of the job of fabricating and hooking up the topside modules went to the Orkanger yard of France’s Spie Batignolles/Vigor. Oil Industry Services in Kristiansand became involved as a sub-contractor at the hook-up stage.

Leveranser til utbyggingen, økonomi og samfunn,
TCP2 module support frame at Åndalsnes. Photo: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Companies in Norway secured more than half of all the contracts in phase III of the Frigg development, which involved positioning the compressors on TCP2. The Norwegian authorities considered it desirable that Elf placed the order for the compressor modules in Norway, since the domestic share of goods and services for the field was lower than the government expected. In a number of cases, tenders from Norwegian fabricators were uncompetitive.

Because of political pressure, companies in Norway nevertheless won a series of contracts. The largest went to a joint venture between Spie Batignolles and Vigor, with Ponticelli as piping sub-contractor. The generator and process control module was fabricated in Orkanger. By comparison, about half the total deliveries to Statfjord A derived from Norwegian companies. Ten per cent of these contracts were held to have been awarded on a non-commercial basis – in other words, bids from foreign firms were lower than those from Norway, but the latter were preferred to help build up a Norwegian supplies industry.

One purpose of the Moe commission’s analysis was to investigate whether the purchase of Norwegian goods and services was responsible for the cost increase. The study found that the rise in costs from using domestic suppliers was not especially great in relation to total expenditure. In the autumn of 1978, the development project was estimated to have cost NOK 10.5 billion. That represents an increase of NOK 7.6 billion from the 1974 forecast of NOK 2.9 billion, or more than a tripling. No less than NOK 1.2 billion of this rise related to the loss of the DP1 jacket. The additional cost of using Norwegian deliveries was put at NOK 50 million, since bids from domestic fabricators were often higher than those from foreign suppliers. According to the report, the bulk of the overruns was attributable to expensive technical solutions, often in combination with the use of consultants and weak control by the operator. Prices had also been driven up because a number of large development projects were being pursued at the same time.

Leveranser til utbyggingen, økonomi og samfunn,
Map of the North Sea Basin. Towing route for platforms built in Åndalsnes for transport to the Frigg field is drawn in black.

The additional cost of using Norwegian suppliers was small by comparison with the total overruns in the Frigg development. Many had feared that political pressure to “buy Norwegian” would lead to sharp cost increases, but these worries proved misplaced. The deadline-based contract for gas deliveries meant that progress was prioritised at the expense of cost control. Delays arising from the loss of the DP1 jacket could be recovered to some extent with deliveries from Norway. The Frigg project was implemented at a time of very strong price inflation for oil industry supplies. It also proved difficult to cost the new technical solutions which were adopted.

Moe, Johannes (ed): Kostnadsanalyse norsk kontinentalsokkel (Cost analysis for the NCS), 1981.
NOU 1999, 11: Analyse av investeringsutviklingen på kontinentalsokkelen (Analysis of investment development on the continental shelf).


Published August 2, 2018   •   Updated October 22, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

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: http://www.akerkvaerner.com/internet/AboutUs/AkerKvaernerGroup/GroupStructure/MMO+Europe/Projectsandexperience.htm.



Published August 3, 2018   •   Updated July 29, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

The “Infant Frigg” nursery school

person Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum museum
The question of a nursery school was first raised in July 1976 by the newly-established staff and management committee
— The Elf kindergarden Veslefrigg. Photo: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S//Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Turnover of female employees had proved high – as much as five-six times the level for male personnel. One reason was the difficulty of caring for pre-school children during working hours. The staff committee accordingly proposed the creation of a nursery school “because the company wants to retain women in the workforce”1.

This was seen as a good proposal by management. Contact was taken with the nursery school which formed part of the French school and with the city council to achieve a collaboration. Nothing came of these approaches. It was thereby resolved that Elf would establish its own facility, and a house was leased at Grødem in Randaberg local authority. A nursery school for 20 children opened its doors in 1978.2This was soon too small, and work continued to secure more space. A new building was erected at Finnestad, close to Elf’s main offices, and Pierre Chouzenoux, managing director of Elf Norge, was able to cut the ribbon and declare “Veslefrigg” – Infant Frigg – open on 18 October 1983. It had three classes and space for 40 children. At that time, only Elf, Statoil and the hospital had their own nursery schools in Stavanger.

1Minutes of the staff committee meeting on 19 August 1976.
2Elf Weekly, 27 February 1978.


Published August 3, 2018   •   Updated July 30, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

French school in Stavanger

person Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum museum
The decision was taken in 1972 to locate Statoil and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate in Stavanger, confirming the city's status as the country's oil capital. A number of international oil companies had already established offices there.
— Kampen School in Stavanger. Photo: Jarle Vines CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10628249)
© Norsk Oljemuseum
Franske skolen

The French school are leasing the premises from Kampen school in Stavanger.

Petroleum workers from all corners of the globe moved in, including many French speakers. Elf had discovered Frigg and begun to build up an organisation in Stavanger. Many people were brought from France, and a number had their families with them. Most would be in Norway for two-five years, and needed educational provision for their children. The French school opened in 1972, leasing the premises from Kampen school which it still occupies. Although it was the arrival of the oil industry which prompted the creation of this facility, neither Elf nor other companies had anything directly to do with its establishment or operation. It represented a fantastic provision for Elf employees. Children who had gone to school in France, or who were to continue their education there, could attended classes with a French curriculum and teaching.

A privately-owned institution, the school falls under Mission Laïque Française, an organisation which runs schools outside France where major French companies operate.1 The teachers are French, and come to work in Stavanger for three-year periods.

The school was attended by 100 French children and young people in 1977. During the 1980s, a Norwegianisation of the oil industry occurred as locals acquired the necessary expertise to take over. This reduced the need to import personnel for the industry. That also applied to Elf. Fewer French families came to Stavanger, and the number of pupils at the school declined. To prevent its closure, Norwegian children were invited to apply for the further education stage. The only requirement was that they had studied French in secondary school – essential since all teaching is in French.

Today, the school has 60-70 pupils, both French and Norwegian, in classes from primary level to the first year of further education. A nursery section caters from children from three to six.

Unlike Stavanger’s French-Norwegian Cultural Centre, which is subordinate to the French embassy, the school is independent. But it cooperates closely with the centre. The latter’s media facility is much used, and the pupils also use the centre’s premises to exhibit art they have created in class.

1According to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the object of Mission Laïque Française is to spread French language and culture by encouraging dialogue between cultures.


1Mission Laïque Française er en organisasjon som driver skoler utenfor Frankrike hvor store franske firma opererer. Formålet er å spre fransk språk og kultur ved å oppmuntre til dialog mellom kulturer. Minestère des Affaires Ètrangères.

Published August 3, 2018   •   Updated July 30, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

French culture gains a foothold

person Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum museum
Stavanger's French-Norwegian Cultural Centre is the only institution of its kind in Norway outside Oslo. It was established to promote cultural and linguistic exchanges between Norway and France through information, education and collaborative cultural activities. The centre contributes to a broad array of art exhibitions, musical events and the like.
— Small Eiffel tower. Photo: Fotografierende from Pexels
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Like similar institutions elsewhere, it is subordinate to the French embassy. But unlike all other bodies of its kind, the cultural centre in Stavanger has introduced a form of bilateral relationship. Its job is not only to make France and the French language better known in the city, but also to raise awareness of Stavanger and Norway among the French.

The centre was inaugurated with due ceremony in 1981. The audience in Kongsgaten 54 included Einar Førde, minister of education and church affairs, Stavanger mayor Arne Rettedal, French ambassador Pierre Dessaux and Pierre Chouzenoux, managing director of Elf Aquitaine Norge. Visiting professor Jacques Blanc at the Rogaland Regional College (now the University of Stavanger) became the centre’s leader, with Nora Smedvig as his assistant. It took less than a year from the time the centre was proposed until it stood ready.

After two years, the centre outgrew the premises in Kongsgaten and a third floor was taken over. It moved in 1989 to modern facilities in Løkkeveien, which include a conference room, classroom, media library and film room. The new building was financed by Elf (now Total), and the company also contributes to the centre’s annual running costs.

According to general manager Marc Ordaz, the centre has a unique collaboration with Total and could not survive without its support. This is provided under a contract renewed every three years. “Total’s backing reveals the French mentality,” says Ordaz. “It demonstrates how important culture is for France and the French.”

The centre  had three permanent staff and 12 teachers under contract in 2007. Its three priority areas are cultural exchange, assistance for studies in France, and – most importantly – language courses in French. A large cultural programme is pursued, with events to promote French culture. Scholarships are awarded annually to students in the last year of further education who want to do an extra year of studying in France. The centre has contacts with five French universities in this programme. Language courses are provided at every level, from beginner to advanced conversation. Many Elf/Total employees and their families have had the pleasure of learning French at the centre.

Published August 8, 2018   •   Updated July 30, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

The club system

person Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum museum
Elf's club system is unusual. Few companies in Norway offer such a varied range of social activities for employees and their families. As early as 1970, the first French employees in Norway had organised their own club which a small fund, library and film showings. The Norwegian employees were naturally invited to join.
— First sailboat in Elf boat club "Albin Vega" 1977. Photo: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S//Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

This was a good way to bring the French and Norwegians together, and the club functioned as a bridgebuilder between nationalities.

The club system was brought by Elf from France, where companies were required to allocate a certain percentage of their payroll budget to social purposes through the “Comité d’Entreprise” (usually translated as works council). Headed by managing director Paul le Rest, the French in the company took the initiative in the spring of 1974 to establish this system in Norway on a more formal basis.

Klubbsystemet, økonomi og samfunn,
Elf bridge club in the canteen. Photo: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Created in January 1975, the Elf Norge Club was to support and promote social leisure activities for employees and their families, forge stronger links between personnel and the company, and build a good working environment. This move was well received, and virtually all employees belonged to one or more clubs by the end of the 1980s. The most popular were the holiday cottage, art, tennis, sports, riding and boat clubs. This system helped to create the distinctive Elf culture, and was so successful that other companies copied it.

Some clubs had the character of holiday societies which appealed to specific families. That applied, for instance, to the Elf Norge Boat Club. According to the statutes, its object was to encourage members and their families to participate in and learn to enjoy sailing, life afloat and associated activities. Membership was free, but a small fee was charged for using the boats. Various types of craft were acquired – motorboats, lifeboats, yachts and so forth. The club also organised navigation courses.

Klubbsystemet, økonomi og samfunn,
Photo: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

For its part, the Elf Windsurfing Club possessed both boards and wetsuits. Another holiday club was the Elf Norge Cottage Club, which leased three cabins in Stjernarøy north of Stavanger for use by members. These were maintained by volunteers. Cabins were also acquired at Sinnes in Sirdal. The Elf Caravan Club worked to promote interest in caravan holidays in the broadest sense, and helped members to secure equipment and suitable camp sites. Caravans were purchased, and the club had a site in Sirdal.

Sports clubs were another category, with associations for both team games and individual activities. The Elf Norge Football Club was very active, with a number of teams drawn from company employees and their families. These played in several company football tournaments. The Elf Handball Club was also active in such competitions.

The Elf Tennis Club collaborated with the Stavanger Tennis Club and used its premises. Until the end of 1975, it was able to borrow a corner of the Siddishallen indoor court for a few hours a week. New indoor courts opened at Gamlingen in Stavanger in 1976 and improved the position. These buildings were erected with financial help from Elf. The Elf Norge Table Tennis Club also embraced other sports which did not have their own Elf association, and was based in the bomb-proof cellar of the main building in Dusavik.

Located at the Stavanger Golf Club’s courses on Stokka Lake, the Elf Aquitaine Golf Club possessed several sets of clubs and organised free instruction.

Members of the Elf Bridge Club also met in Dusavik, the Elf Orienteering Club arranged races, and the Elf Ski Club organised weekend outings for both Nordic and Alpine disciplines with equipment for hire at low rates. The Elf Norge Riding Club was one of the biggest in the company, and collaborated with the Stavanger Riding Club at Gimle Farm near the golf course. The club owned a number of horses, including Lady Elf, Delfin, Elf Galvin, Gawin and Miss Elfana, as well as two Iceland ponies – Peer and Paal. Full scuba sets and a Zodiac inflatable boat were available in the Elf Norge Diving Club.

The Elf Norge Cannon Club – officially the Elf Hunting, Shooting & Fishing Club ­- provided target-shooting rifles and pistols. A miniature rifle range was installed in the cellar of the main building. For hunting, Elf had a duck-shooting area in Sandnes and a terrain for small game in Sand. A small powered plastic-hulled boat and a rifle for big-game hunting were available. Opportunities also existed for hiring more extensive hunting grounds. Where fishing was concerned, the club had sites on the Årdal and Ogna rivers.

Klubbsystemet, økonomi og samfunn,
Member of Elf hunting & fishing club. Photo: Elf Aquitaine Norge A/S/Norwegian Petroleum Museum

A fully-equipped darkroom for developing black-and-white photographs was provided by the Elf Norge Photo Club at Eiganesveien 21. Equipment for developing colour pictures was eventually also acquired. The chemicals for black-and-white photos were free, and members only had to bring their own paper.

The Elf Motor Club’s object was to act as a service for employees by offering spare parts and other accessories at reduced rates. Courses, car testing, competitions and so forth were organised, together with safety and first-aid teaching.

Artwork lotteries were held by the Elf Art Club, while the Elf Music Club had a library of records and tapes which members could borrow cheaply. Music courses were held for those who wanted to learn to play an instrument. Professional teachers could be hired. The club had an orchestra and bands for all its members.

Published August 8, 2018   •   Updated October 22, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

Some rewarding years

person Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum museum
The Norwegian share of Frigg yielded about 116 billion cubic metres of gas, worth some NOK 200 billion in 2007 money, from the start of production until its cessation in September 2004. When satellite fields are included, production reached 190 billion cubic metres.
— (CC0)
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Frigg proved to contain no less than 40 per cent more gas than had been estimated when it first came on stream. Seventy-eight per cent of these reserves were recovered. The recovery target set by the Norwegian government for gas from an offshore reservoir is 75 per cent, so that goal was met with a comfortable margin.

Frigg has meant a lot for Norway as a gas nation, for the Norwegian economy and for its licensees. Together with its satellite fields, it has also been highly significant for the UK. From the early 1980s, Frigg supplied almost a third of all gas consumed in the British Isles.

The field also made an important contribution to technological developments on the Norwegian continental shelf and to Norway’s offshore supplies industry.

Published August 8, 2018   •   Updated July 30, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close

Strike halts gas flow

person Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum museum
During Norway's 1986 union-management negotiations on pay and conditions, gas deliveries to the UK were shut down for the first and last time because of a labour dispute. The agreements under discussion covered drilling, catering and operations personnel. All three existing deals expired on 1 April. The employers maintained that prospects for reaching a settlement were good, but said that everyone had to be willing to negotiate.
— "STRIKE". Part of facsimile from Klassekampen 07.04.1986
© Norsk Oljemuseum

On the same day that the management side issued this statement, the Catering Workers Union (CAF) – part of the Federation of Oil Workers Trade Unions (OFS) – withdrew from the talks. The employers then broke off negotiations over all three agreements and announced a lock-out. The CAF called a strike on 6 April. In response, the employers instituted a lock-out of all workers covered by the three agreements. The OFS stepped up the strike on 19 April by calling out members of the Union of Operator Employees (OAF) on the UK side of Frigg and shut down gas deliveries to the UK.

Streik! Gassen til Storbritannia stanses,
"Strike in the North Sea". Facsimile from Klassekampen 07.04.1986

Both sides were called in by Norway’s chief state mediator three days later for mediation. This effort broke down, and everyone was summoned to Arne Rettedal, then minister for local government and labour. He made it clear that they had one night to negotiate, and fixed a new meeting for the next day. Since the overnight talks also proved fruitless, the minister informed unions and management on 26 April that the matter would go to compulsory arbitration. This meant the unions had to resume work. Gas deliveries to the UK had then been halted for six days.

One consequence of this conflict was that the Frigg workers undertook not to down tools on the UK side during future labour disputes. Ensuring that a stoppage of this kind did not recur was important for Elf. The company took the initiative on talks between those involved, and a protocol was established. Another nation could not be hit or harmed by disagreements on the NCS. The guarantee given by the workers was incorporated in the agreement on pay and conditions.


Published August 8, 2018   •   Updated October 21, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
close Close