Statoil To Focus On Development Of “Clean” Light-Crude Oil, CEO Says (To Focus On Fossil Fuel Extraction For Decades To Come)

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While a rapid, wholesale move away from fossil fuel dependence would be required if extreme anthropogenic climate warming and instability was to be avoided to any real degree, that fact truly doesn’t seem to have sunk in for many of those in the world now. The strategy being taken by most people seems to amount to pretending that there’s nothing wrong, and hoping that they will be dead before severe impacts begin hitting the “developed” world.

As an example to support that observation, the CEO of one of the largest oil companies in the world — Norway’s Statoil — was recently quoted as saying that much of the world’s oil reserves will need to stay in the ground … before then adding that the oil left in the ground won’t be the “clean” light-crude that Statoil will be focusing on in the future. The CEO went on to state that Statoil would remain focused on oil and gas extraction for decades to come, and that demand will remain strong.

An attitude which was paraphrased helpfully by the writers over at Reuters as: “There’s oil, and then there’s oil.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much what Statoil CEO Eldar Saetre’s comments amount to. Yes, it’s true that some oil reserves are more energy intensive to develop than others … but that’s really besides the point — if extreme anthropogenic climate change is to be curtailed, then effectively all of the world’s oil reserves will need to remain in the ground.

I’m aware that that’s very, very unlikely to happen, but that reality doesn’t justify the doublespeak that’s so common nowadays (seemingly across all sectors, and all political parties) and that is being used to keep business-as-usual going even as climate collapse gets closer by the day.

To add to that, here’s a collection of “interesting” quotes from Saetre (from the interview in question) on the subject:

“A lot of fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground, coal obviously … but you will also see oil and gas being left in the ground, that is natural … At Statoil we are not pursuing certain types of resources, we are not exploring for heavy oil or investing in oil sands. It is really about accessing the most carbon-efficient barrels.” (Translation: It’s other oil companies that will lose out and have to leave reserves undeveloped, not us, we’ll be fine.)

“The world needs to develop more efficient barrels. … Competitiveness to me is carbon competitiveness and cost competitiveness.” (Translation: Give us more business, not our competitors, because we are “clean.”)

Reuters provides more: “Around 70% of the world’s discovered oil resources is heavy oil and bitumen, both highly viscous crudes that are more complex and energy-intensive to extract and process than lighter crude, according to the US Geological Survey. The comments from a senior oil executive may raise alarm bells for oil-rich countries such as Venezuela and Canada that mostly produce heavy oil.

“The retreat from energy-intensive oil production in Canada and elsewhere is already taking place. Statoil sold its entire Canadian oil sands business late last year to Athabasca Oil Corp, and Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Marathon Oil have all scaled back their operations in the country. Statoil is now exploring for new resources offshore Norway and Brazil where oil is lighter and abundant.

“… Shell, Exxon Mobil, and France’s Total have also invested billions in recent years in Brazil’s oil wealth, and companies are vying to discover and develop resources in other light-oil provinces such as the North Sea as well as shale basins in the United States. Growing pressure from investors on oil companies to reduce their carbon emissions, is propelling the trend — highlighted last week when Norway’s trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund announced plans to cut investments in oil and gas companies.”

While it’s of course good to see a move away from particularly carbon-intensive developments — such as the Canadian tar sands — that’s nowhere near enough to limit anthropogenic climate change to a degree that would allow the modern industrial world to continue to exist.

Reuters continues: “The company is developing one of the world’s largest oil discoveries in decades, the Johan Sverdrup field offshore Norway, which is expected to begin production by the end of 2019.”

Actions should speak louder than words, right? How does one reconcile the “green” or “clean” image being sold by Statoil with the reality of continued expansion and development of oil reserves. Offshore reserves are, regardless of what Saetre has implied, quite energy intensive to develop.

Related: The Totally Insane Carbon Bubble

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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