Twenty billion barrels of oil have been pumped up from the Norwegian continental shelf since production started in June 1971. It all began at the Ekofisk field, which in 2006 is Norway's most productive oil and gas field and a national cultural heritage monument.
Today there are 51 active oil and gas fields on the Norwegian continental shelf, and even after 35 years of production the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate believes that Ekofisk still has the largest reserves. In total, nearly 40 percent of the discovered marketable oil resources on the Norwegian shelf have not yet been extracted. In addition there are probably many undiscovered fields. The Petroleum Directorate estimates that the undiscovered resources alone amounts to 7, 3 billion barrels of oil.
The oil adventure began in the summer of 1969 when Phillips Petroleum Company Norway completed its last exploration wellbore at the Ekofisk field. The company was close to giving up after several futile attempts and was getting ready to pack up and leave when they made the massive oil discovery. Production commenced 15 June 1971 and the event started what today is one of Norway's most important sectors.
The Directorate for Cultural Heritage in Norway gave the Ekofisk field the status as cultural heritage monument in 2001. An important element of this status is that the monuments must be carefully documented, and the Ekofisk field is now the subject of both an online exhibit as well as an exhibit at the Petroleum Museum in Stavanger. The documentation process is extremely important for future conservation of the events as it's obviously a difficult task to actually visit the platforms and impossible to preserve the 15 installations that are no longer in production. The Cultural Heritage Monument Ekofisk thus documents the technological prowess, the work environment and the societal impact of this oil field.
Approximately 80 000 people are employed in the petroleum sector in Norway today, and oil and gas comprise Norway's biggest export articles with a 47 percent share of the total Norwegian export market On an international basis, Norway ranks third among the world's largest oil exporters, and the industry is in the forefront in the areas of technology and environmental protection. Because less than a third of Norway's oil resources have been utilised there will probably be activity on the continental shelf for a long time to come.
Click on the graph below to see the developments in Norwegian oil production over the years:
Graph: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate