Eldar Sætre
President and CEO of Equinor

Since the discovery of rich oil and gas deposits in the North Sea over 50 year ago, Norway has become one of the leading producers and exporters of petroleum products. A company that has been central to the development of Norway’s natural resources is Equinor, formally known as Statoil.
 
On a new episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff talks with Eldar Sætre, President and CEO of Equinor. They spoke in Stavanger, Norway, on the sidelines of the recent ONS Conference. Eldar joined Equinor nearly forty years ago and has held numerous roles including CFO and Executive Vice President for Marketing, Processing & Renewable Energy.
 
Jason and Eldar discuss a range of topics including the key innovations and trends impacting the energy industry and the clean energy transition. Other topics include Eldar’s thoughts on global oil and gas markets, the role of geopolitics, and how Equinor thinks about risk. They also discuss the company’s recent name change and the motivations behind that decision. 

View the Transcript

Jason Bordoff:  Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.  I’m Jason Bordoff.  We live in a time of intense and rapid change for the energy sector.  Coming out of an oil price downturn, global oil and gas majors have restructured the cost profiles of their projects.  The global gas market is becoming more integrated and competitive.  And we are seeing many energy companies that are pursuing opportunities to expand their business into alternative and clean energy sources.  As the cost of those technology falls, clean energy deployment is growing at a rapid rate and concerns about climate change and local pollution become more acute around the world.  One of the firm’s most active in all of these areas and much more is Equinor.  Recently changed its name from Statoil earlier this year to reflect its intention to broaden its energy business.  Over the last several decades, Equinor has evolved from a state company developing Norway’s offshore resources to one of the largest and most globally active energy companies in the world.  Recently, I caught up with the President and CEO of Equinor, Eldar Sætre at the ONS Conference in Stavanger, often referred to as the oil capital of Norway.  Eldar has led the company since his appointment as president and CEO in October, 2014.  He has spent nearly four decades with Equinor holding numerous roles including that of chief financial officer.  Fascinating discussion with Eldar, we talked about his thoughts on a range of issues from the role of innovation in the energy sector to the evolution of the company over time and its recent name change to the pace and scale of the energy transition, including the role that companies like Equinor will play in that clean energy future.  It’s always interesting to have the chance to spend time with and talk with Eldar especially now given how much the global energy system and Equinor are evolving.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.  Here is that conversation.

 

Eldar Sætre, thank you for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.

 

[00:02:06]

Eldar Sætre:  Good to be here.  Thank you very much.

 

[00:02:08]

Jason Bordoff:  So many things I want to talk to you about.  We’re certainly going to run out of time from where we are in oil and gas markets today, where we are in the clean energy transition.  What that means for an oil and gas major like Equinor and how you are transitioning including as reflected in formally changing the name of the company.  But let me start, we’re sitting here in Stavanger, the home of the Norwegian offshore at ONS and the theme this year is innovate.  So, I just want to ask you a little bit about that word.  Starting in a very broad perspective, you’ve been with… I don’t want to talk about your age.  But you’ve been with Equinor for nearly four decades.  You’ve seen it evolve from a national company focused on developing this country’s resources to one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and increasingly clean energy company.  Can you just talk a little bit about the innovations and the evolutions that you’ve seen in your career for Equinor and what’s coming next?

 

[00:03:05]

Eldar Sætre:  So, this have been a tremendous journey from the very beginning of the Norwegian Continent Shelf.  So, we’ve been through all these different phases, you know.  I had a look yesterday, sort of the legacy concrete platforms, massive constructions and you have a lot of flexibility with you know big enormous platforms on top of these legs.  Lot of flexibility.  So, I think, you know, today, it’s the whole, you know the drilling technologies have improved significant.  We can do stuff today, you know with intelligence and intelligent drilling and automated drilling which is you know miles away from what we are looking at then.  And in terms of how we construct platforms and facilities subsea wasn’t you know in the beginning was really not part of the industry.  We started with the pile of things up _____ [00:04:02] was really a key part of the industry.  So, we can see almost all our latest developments on the Norwegian continent, shell has big component of subsea tieback and so on.  The digital toolbox is emerging.  You know, this industry is digitalized in many ways.  But really have taken out the full potential of these digital opportunities.  We start to do that now.  The latest development that we have on the Norwegian Continent Shelf _____ [00:04:29] is kind of a digital pilot.  But it’s, you know, we have digital field everything is copied digitally.  When we plan, we can operate, we can test them, you know, basically be have a parallel development of what is actually happening physically out there.

 

[00:04:46]

Jason Bordoff:  It’s the theme of almost every energy conference, you go to now is digitalization _____ [00:04:51], just a few years ago.

 

[00:04:49]

Eldar Sætre:  Oh, yeah, it’s kind of, you know making up you know you have two teams is the energy transmission and it’s a digital opportunities right and then sometimes oil and gas are commodity price as well put this is really a, really keep the industry by sort of you know, the capacity to pulses enormous amounts of data.  Basically, had a lot of data before.  But you didn’t have the capacity to process it.  Then we can put algorithm on top of it you know and put it together to intelligent decision making and also to store enormous amounts of data.  So that combination has given us, you know, a whole new set of opportunities.  And what you see now, this summer, we’ll actually put in place a first, unmanned, totally unmanned platform.  There is no living quarter, there is no helicopter like we don’t need that you know.  But it’s actually a processing platform.  So, we, you know this kind of combining that with what you can do on the seabed, you know that gives us a whole new set of flexibility.  We can decompose these big, enormous complex installations into smaller pieces and we can industrialize these components and, in many ways, keep the flexibility that you know, you might see in the _____ [00:06:05] so on.  But that and that you might have also big installations but you don’t go along with the same upfront capital expenditures.  You can, that is more stepwise, controlled, you can learn as you move along and it makes development.  So that will take them cost will increase flexibility and much more controlled developments.  So that’s what we see on the Norwegian continent.  So mature province.

 

[00:06:28]

Jason Bordoff:  So, this might be the answer to the next question, I had which was what, how innovation has affected Equinor’s core business.  You’ve had massive cost reductions in offshore developments.  Your new project portfolio is in the 20s, I think.  I mean, it’s really extraordinary.  How, is what you were just talking about how you achieve that or what allowed this?

 

[00:06:46]

Eldar Sætre:  Well, this is part of it.  But we haven’t taken out the full potential of the digital toolbox and basically this is how the whole mindset, how you design, how you work the project.  Typically, you want it to put a lot of, you thought this was what you needed and you really didn’t _____ [00:07:06] that.  Now we _____ [00:07:06] that, this start with sort of very, you know, bare boat, you know, concepts, what is really this most skinniest thing, you can think of.  And then you have to fight for everything on top of that.  Then you optimize that holistically from the reservoir to the top side and the processing.  So, it’s a whole new way of designing things and you scale down.  We don’t have, you know, we basically make sure that we have the information we need.  We don’t, optionality on top expenses optionality on top of these selection that we really don’t need.  So basically, now your reservoir, explore, you know, drill the wells that you need.  Take the time that you need and you get leaner sort of more suitable concept.  Then also, I’d say, we work with our suppliers.  It’s in a much more integrated way.  We engage our suppliers earlier in the design, scope sort of their task at hand more holistically and also put in place more, you know incentives that drives performance and not necessarily drives cost anyway.  So, aligning incentives.  So, the, all these sound sort of kind of innovations that comes together and gives a totally new, so…

 

[00:08:16]

Jason Bordoff:  How much of that was sort of coming out of the hide of the service company and you start to see that walked back as you see service cost reinflation?

 

[00:08:23]

Eldar Sætre:  Yeah, so basically, we have done some deep diving to this.  I looked at a couple of these projects and we see on the_____ [00:08:30] project for instance at around 85% of this is extra coming from doing things differently, scoping it differently.  Projects that we thought had to be a big platform are now totally a 100% subsea and tied back at longer distances and so on.  So basically, we see it around, you know, let’s say, 10, 20% has to do with the cost coming from supplier.  So obviously in a tough time and tough competition and cost has come down but the rest is actually coming from doing things differently.  And that’s, that’s make me also optimistic about the future because that is something you can keep, you know.  It has nothing to do with capacities.  It has to do with working in smart ways, taking the time, getting it right and there is no reason why we should lose out on that.  We can continue from that started and we can continue to do.

 

[00:09:22]

Jason Bordoff:  So, I mean, you talked about how you reengineered these projects in the down cycle.  There has also been concern about a significant cut back in capex in the down cycle.  What does that mean for the future of supply? But you’ve used the down cycle not only to reduce costs but also to expand.  You have acquisitions and JVs in Brazil, in the Gulf of Mexico, here in Norway.  How do you think oil company should be thinking about these cycles and what are the opportunities and challenges for companies like Equinor in those periods?

 

[00:09:54]

Eldar Sætre:  So, I got to this job, wanting I really tried to do upfront was to, and what is the deepest lessons you’ve learnt in this industry.  And obviously, how can you get even more out of the cycles because cycles is, it has been part of the industry.  These are commodities and there would be cycles.  So how do you benefit from that and I think one thing, you have to use data and we have used that extensively.  But we haven’t delayed projects.  We have moved forward.  Because if you have to invest in the long term.  We continue to invest in exploration.  We continue to invest in fantastic project like the_____ [00:10:31].  So, we put this stuff in place while we have improved them.  And then we have ready.  When the commodity environment, you know, we covers.  We are ready to capture on that sort of recovery.  So, I think to be one principle that you know, we try to follow is to be kind of _____ [00:10:49].  How to do that is partly why we do, you know, the onshore.  So onshore is a pretty big part of our portfolio.  We would like to use that not only in terms of you know, cost flexibility but also in terms of capturing the commodity environment is like pausing time, you know that optionality comes from that.  And also, in the conventional part really to try to do the right things in point cycle.  So that’s what we’ve done.  We continue through the cycle to do research, development and pretty much the same level.  Exploration, taking that slightly but not significantly.  So, we have continued to explore through the cycle and we actually continue to invest through the cycle.  At the same time, we have been using the cycle to really improve significantly on these products.  I think that is to have a very conscious view on the cycle.  How can we use them and like not the cycle around you?  But how can we learn in way, the cycles _____ [00:11:48], we can.

 

[00:11:49]

Jason Bordoff:  Okay.  And one of the other areas of innovation obviously is new energy technologies.  This is like we said in the beginning, reflected in even changing the name from Statoil to Equinor.  Talk a little bit, we’ll come to the main change in a minute.  But just a major player in offshore win, talk about where that technology is.  What do you see is the economics of offshore wind today, where they are headed, how dependent is that still on government policy and subsidies?

 

[00:12:17]

Eldar Sætre:  So, amazing things has happened.  I have been surprised.  We knew, it would happen.  But the speed of that development has really surprised us.  Today, we had a last oxen now in Netherlands.  We participated in that.  And you know, what you put for, is for the basic an oxen without subsidies.  That’s the first really oxen without subsidies and that’s quite impressive.  I expected that to be you know happen in the late 20s.  But we could be in a situation where we actually see that kind of cost resilience and we are there, now you know.  So, I think we will continue to see cost coming down.  That means that the bidding pattern, it’s not, subsidies anymore.  You bid on basically the quality of your projects, you know.  And so that means for us really to be able to continue to improve the cost efficiency, reduce the risks involved in these project development because risk and reward is very important in the renew space.  Leverage all our competence from the oil and gas which we do extensively into offshore rim.  And also, to be able to capture the, not subsidized.  You basically have to do with the electricity market and that’s a different sort of revenue stream and a different risk than actually a fixed, you know subsidy.  So, you need to be able to sort of capture, you know values also from the electricity market.  This is not electricity.

 

[00:13:44]

Jason Bordoff:  And that’s a, I mean, that, it’s interesting that you brought that up because you do see companies not just Equinor to show others that are increasing their presence in the electricity markets are very different kind of business.  Are we going to see oil and gas companies entering the power utility business more and more and what’s oil and gas companies comparative advantage in power generation, compared to traditional power utilities or business with historically, you know, pretty small margins.

 

[00:14:14]

Eldar Sætre:  I well, first of all, it’s, I think you will see more our type of companies and we already see it expanding to electrons and electrons, this really, you know, a significant part of the energy transition.  We see much more electrons in the energy mix.  And it comes as a consequence of being, you know, into the renewable space basically produce electrons.  So, you’re into that market.  Indirectly also that through the not so much the oil but the natural gas.  And pretty big component of natural gas goes into power generation.  So, we, when we trade, with excessive trading, we are the electricity markets are very close to that trading and so basically, you know…

 

[00:15:03]

Jason Bordoff:  You recently bought an energy trading company?

 

[00:15:06]

Eldar Sætre:  Well, we, well the deal has to be closed and there are processes that we need to go through.  But that we have offered, you know, 400 million Euros for Danish commodities.  We just basically mainly in the electricity trading companies in 35 countries something.  But it’s also gas trading company.  So that, you know, goes very, you know, hand in hand with both and natural gas.  But that demonstrated how natural gas and electricity is coupled very closely and so, I see this as a very natural extension of what we do from the upstream, from the gas, from the offshore wind and so on to actually start, you know, engaging ourselves into the electricity market.  But we are not beyond that.  We are not into the retail and I don’t see us taking that step.  So basically, we try to sort of cut from value in the electricity market, make sure that we are not cannibalized in that market as long as we produce, you know, only when the wind blows and the sun shines, right.

 

[00:16:11]

Jason Bordoff:  How do you think about the pace of transition again kind of as reflected in the name change? You said by 2030, I think 15 to 20% of _____ [00:16:21] would be new energy technologies.  Why is that the white number when you think about how to…

 

[00:16:27]

Eldar Sætre:  Well, that’s a good transition.

 

[00:16:28]

Jason Bordoff:  Transition as a company and how to maximize return to shareholders.

 

[00:16:32]

Eldar Sætre:  And I don’t know, it’s right number and just felt the need to at least give some indication of where this might be.  There is a lot of assumptions behind that.  That is a pretty big step up for us.  So, our company invest something like 11 billion this year and taking us to 15, 20% is a big step compared to where we invest today in the new books.  So, it’s, it will mean where we have really work hard to access good industrial project.  I could spend a lot of money but I want to do industrial projects where we use our competence and our skills.  And to access these projects, where we can shape it, develop them and with typically with oil and gas develop these project and then you know, put them into the market and then see, you know, whether we will be able to perfect it going forward or shared ownership and how that will, but that’s, you know, there is no right number or wrong number.  It could be higher, it could be lower.  But what I’m saying is basic, it would be a tough call, hard work to come up with projects which has a kind of risk reward proposition that makes sense that is to our shareholders, you know and that makes sense in a combined portfolio with oil and gas business.

 

[00:17:42]

Jason Bordoff:  How do you think about the core capabilities of oil and gas companies when we think about new energy technologies? I mean, Statoil, decades of massive construction of offshore facilities and that can apply to offshore wind.  We see other companies that are thinking about battery storage and solar.  And then there are other companies that say, that’s not what we know how to do.  We are going to maximize return value to shareholder and we’ll let them take the returns and invest it in clean energy companies.  That’s a different business.

 

[00:18:09]

Eldar Sætre:  So that’s a good thing, you know and you look at the _____ [00:18:11] in particularly offshore wind.  That’s why we have focused on offshore wind to really start building, you know, a portfolio with the materiality and have some scale and we can use basically all the people that are working on this project come from oil and gas.  It’s the same skillsets, it’s complex projects, it’s planning, it’s procurement, logistics, it’s marine environment, you know, marine vessels and equipment to put this together.  Materials that we use and you know fixing it to see that you know same basic technology even and now we also started to take the technology from the offshore wind into the offshore oil and gas.  For instance, how you, I talked about unmanned platforms with oil and gas.  Well, that’s start looking like an unmanned, you know wind, right.  And how can we access that? So basically, we used to save tools the same, you know mechanics to access that kind of platform as we do with offshore.  So basically, this is, you know, same people, same complexities, same scale, some deep express that we need to solve issues where there is an offshore.  So, then we went to solar.  Solar panels, that’s slightly different.  So basically, it depends a little bit on where you have your focus on.  We started on solar.  You know, we had, we can tie it into locations where we have people present and I current asset is in Brazil where we have an organization and logistics and support.  But beyond that, you know, it’s kind of slightly different from what we have been doing.  It’s kind of a step up.  So that’s why we do this very cautiously when we are answering to that kind of opportunities.

 

[00:19:54]

Jason Bordoff:  Talk about the name change for a minute, if you could just for listeners who may not have heard of talk about this before.  What motivated it, why was that important and how has that transition gone?

 

[00:20:05]

 

Eldar Sætre:  So, this is Statoil is you’re so used to that name that you don’t even hear what you say.

 

[00:20:14]

Jason Bordoff:  I’m proud of myself.  I haven’t made that mistake yet.  I thought I.

 

[00:20:19]

Eldar Sætre:  Basically, this is not about the state, you know the government is a good owner for us, two-thirds of the company.  So, this is about the oil component.  We still produce oil but we also produce natural gas and we will increasingly produce other forms of energy, from other sources.  So, at some point, you would have to change that name because it’s kind of a name that is descriptive name.  It says something about what we are and that you know, has worked well for the, you know the previous, you know 50 year we are starting to write the history 50 year history now for the company.  Bur for the next 50 year, this, the company will transform gradually.  It’s not sort of no rock the boat or you know, in that point in time but it will reshape, it will, you will see much more, you know renewables into energy mix and what we produce and definitely natural gas and then, and at some point, you know, the name would have to be changed.  It’s a question of when really and I found this was a good time and then to be honest, it also has to do with perceptions.  So, when young people who doesn’t know the company is not used to Statoil, you know, the first time they hear it and they invite them to come to, you know, students to come and listen to what we have to say and _____ [00:21:34] Statoil.  Well, that’s unnecessarily, you know, it kind of you know, attraction for many young people.  So, I want them to be a little bit more curious, and another name or neutral name to be more meaningful to actually get into dialogue without being what we are actually working on.  And it’s the broad energy future, broad energy company.  So, this was, partly, you know, probably shaping something that is not sort of distracting and creating distance but actually at least creating some curiosity and more curiosity young people.  And also getting a name that actually is reflecting the facts of what we as a company going forward.

 

[00:22:09]

Jason Bordoff:  It’s interesting, you said that.

 

[00:22:11]

Eldar Sætre:  It’s a tough call to change name, I can tell you.

 

[00:22:13]

Jason Bordoff:  Do you still find yourself making mistakes and Equinor, so you catch yourself _____ [00:22:17].

 

[00:22:18]

Eldar Sætre:  No.

 

[00:22:20]

Jason Bordoff:  Not anymore.

 

[00:22:21]

Eldar Sætre:  Kind of force to find.  But no, it works fine now.  Internally, it actually is very fine.  I hear people like you say that.  Get it wrong but I’m very flexible, you know, very pragmatic on that.

 

[00:22:34]

Jason Bordoff:  What were the runner-up names that didn’t get chosen?

 

[00:22:35]

Eldar Sætre:  I can’t tell you.

 

[00:22:37]

Jason Bordoff:  You can tell us, it’s a state secret, okay.

 

[00:22:39]

Eldar Sætre:  But that’s the secret, you know.  That will be really fun, you know.  A lot of people would start talking and talking about that.  So that’s the state secret, I can assure you.  But that was, it’s, you start with you know, massive amount of names and generate a lot of basically we decide what kinds of things would be important for the name and based on that criteria, you know, you get a massive amount of stuff in there and even I threw in some stuff you know and then you go through screening and you are left with, you know, three four and then you are left with two and then, you know, you have to make a choice, right.

 

[00:23:13]

Jason Bordoff:  Well, it is interesting that you mentioned sort of the perception among young people because obviously, at Columbia University we have lots of talented young people we work with who are interested in entering the energy sector.  Many of them are motivated by a desire to be part of the clean energy transition.  And I was wondering how the name change was received internally within the company? How important you have seen it already be or think it will be to attract and retain talent moving forward? How important is it to send those sorts of signals to younger generation?

 

[00:23:44]

Eldar Sætre:  I think you know, broadly speaking, it is very well received in particular where the youngest part, young part.  I guess, there is kind of an age thing on this, if you are used to the name, the old name, you know you get attached to it, you know, and it gets more of a difficult to sort of and why should we leave that name, which has served us so well.  But with a little bit sort of more fresh young, younger mindset, you know, you have more adapt, you know adaptive and…

 

[00:24:14]

Jason Bordoff:  Was it hard for you? I mean, you’ve had nearly four decades with Statoil?

 

[00:24:17]

Eldar Sætre:  Oh yeah, oh yeah.  I had tears actually coming out on this, obviously it was a tough call.  But I knew that we have to do it.  It was more a question of time and I felt strongly.  Now, the company is in good shape, you know and we have changed strategy and, there was no big event.  Typically, this could happen around big events.  I couldn’t wait for that.  I wanted to see that you know, so basically, it’s kind of gravity, come to tipping point and I felt this was a good time for the company, you know, well, you know, reputable and good shape financially, you know, and it’s rock solid and, you know, and I was in a position to do that, so that, you know.

 

[00:25:00]

Jason Bordoff:  I mean, it’s interesting, because this comes to I think something that’s always been interesting to me which is the unique, Equinor, I think, I think you will agree, in some ways has a unique relationship with the society, with the country, with the government, relative to your peers around the world.  And I mean, we are here in Stavanger which is synonymous with Norwegian production and Equinor is almost synonymous with Norwegian production as well.  How has that, and there has been a lot of debate in Norway about the role of oil and gas, about the investment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund in oil and gas both for issues of climate but also to the diversified risk of recommendation to do that and then a recent government commission that said, you know, that’s not the right answer.  Maybe the state should reduce its ownership as an alternative.  How have you seen that relationship between the company and the people in the country change over time and how does that affect the way Equinor operates as a company?

 

[00:26:01]

Eldar Sætre:  Well, I think, it is fair to say that you know, the Norwegian public is very conscious about the climate issues for instance and the need to you know, make changes and the energy is really a big part of the issue at hand and has to be a big part of the solution as well.  So, I think, you know, and I see that in terms of, you know, policies from the government.  They are quite aggressive in terms of electric cars, subsidies and so on.  So, it’s really government that is leaning forward and you know, population and makes this very important part of elections and so on.  So, it’s kind of very political thing and a very conscious, you know, well, educated population that is wants to see the change.  At the same time, we recognize, so that, you know, oil and gas is important.  It has been important to shape the wealth funds and you know, the status of the nation and wealth of the people in the country.  You know, so kind of a dual situation and which in many ways, you know, is important for us to understand, to support in this country we are big in this country and the support from the people and politicians is important for us, you know.  So, we relate to this and basically, I think we have a view as a company, which resonates very well with what we see politically.  We have a broad support for the company and I would say, also the policy, you know the how we, you know, develop into broad energy companies, broad support for that.  So actually basically, this is about striking a balance between sort of, strong, I have to make a difference, to make the changes, but at the same time, recognizing the reality of energy that we need, sort of what we do and then you are left with actually doing what we do in a responsible way.  So, you feel good about what you do.  So, it has this sort of solid place in the energy space.  You know, it’s oil and gas.  It’s really the surface of the place.  And at the same time as we really, you know, on a front run and also when it comes to renewable energy and the nation does that when it comes to you know, _____ [00:28:15] electric cars and so on.  Basically, hydro is also, that we have you know, the electrons come from.  So, we have a very good starting point and we want to be count that in the lead.  Show the way and we as a company, you know, has a way of thinking.  Same culture in a way and so we are thinking.  So, I think, it’s pretty well align.  But there is this wretch in the population from different views.

 

[00:28:43]

Jason Bordoff:  We only have a few minutes left.  I did want to ask you just to sort of touch on a couple of the current market issues that we see coming out of the down cycle now.  And we talk about where you see the oil market headed.  Concerns about emerging market, risk and trade wars affecting oil demands.  On the other hand, we see potential for supply to come off around sanctions and new questions about the OPEC Russia relationship.  Where do you see the oil market going?

 

[00:29:09]

Eldar Sætre:  Well, obviously, you know, the geopolitics and now increasing also, you know sanctions and you know, trade and so on.  That is interlink with energy.  Energy is to important and goes into all of these and of course both ways.  And I typically say, you know, to be honest, here geopolitics is not good.  It’s disruptions and uncertainties.  It’s not good for the industry.  It’s not good for energy.  You know, it’s basically drives inefficiencies which drives costs.  And also, you know, availability.  Security of supply, you know, if there are interruptions in and you know, inefficiencies in how things are traded and how goods are moving you know, commodities are moving that, that you know, adds.

 

[00:30:08]

Jason Bordoff:  How does that affect the way Equinor thinks about its investments given the geopolitical risk, the policy risk and you’re operating in you know, challenging places around the world, in Libya, in Nigeria, in Venezuela and…

 

[00:30:20]

Eldar Sætre:  Yeah, you name it.  So, no, so obviously, you know we as a company, we are used to dealing with risk.  You know, commodity risk is the starting point and then we have, you have, you know, reservoirs, hydrocarbons under significant pressure, you know so and uncertainty in reservoir performance.  Big upfront capital expenditures where you need to recover that over decades, right.  So, it’s really a lot of risk that you need to relate to and geopolitical risk has always been there as a component into this.  You know, so we cater for that.  We try to be precise and try to you know and calculate into out decision making.  And on top of that you need to sort of, you need a premium on top of that.  So, you need to be comfortable whatever happens and then there are you know, things that you simply can’t get in touch with.  You know you stay out of it.  It’s too much, you know it’s too complex.  How much you put into one basket is always a question that’s being raised and so it’s something which we try to accommodate, try to relate to, try to you know bring into our decision making.  But you know, you are left with a lot of residual risk, you can’t, you can mitigate some but you can’t mitigate all.  So, I think it’s kind of you know, yeah.

 

[00:31:36]

Jason Bordoff:  And talk about how you see the outlook for the global gas market which is becoming more integrated, more liquid, strong demand growth in countries like China but have moved away from coal fire boilers for air pollution reasons.  But in a place like Europe, you know, gas in some way faces the dual challenge of concerns about security risk, security of supply.  Maybe not from Norway but from other suppliers.  And in some parts of Europe, it’s, you know, perceived not as a green enough fuel.  So, the environmental concerns and security concerns, does that have an impact when policy is designed, maybe to support, particularly clean energy technologies, subsidized renewables, set mandates for renewables, as gas gets potentially squeezed.

 

[00:32:19]

Eldar Sætre:  You know, I think, you know if the world really and I think we are serious about climate issues and we need to make a change.  We need, you can’t disregard natural gas.  You can use for a while.  I mean, you can you know.  But in the end, you know I think you need to recognize what natural gas can do.  It can take our coal basically and massively and we need to do that.  And I can’t see _____ [00:32:42] wants to know have the capacity to do that on its own.  It will take us on but you simply need natural gas to do that, have that impact.  So that into power generation mainly but also see that in beyond power generation of natural gas, you know into transportation for instance.  There would really be some parts of the transportation area which is really hard to decarbonize and natural gas could be a really, you know, efficient to get along way on trucks and so on so…

 

[00:33:10]

Jason Bordoff:  I mean, when it comes to the greenhouse gas footprint but of course these questions about methane leakage and do you think industries sort of doing enough to address that issue?

 

[00:33:17]

Eldar Sætre:  I think yeah.  You know, in a way, you’re never doing enough but I think, you know, you, the industry is starting to wake up really on methane.  And we will address that.  At the OGCI event, you know in September, took out, methane targets for the industry.

 

[00:33:34]

Jason Bordoff:  Just so people know.  OGCI, The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative which _____ [00:33:39] some part of which is creating a billion-dollar fund.

 

[00:33:41]

Eldar Sætre:  So, it’s really a wakeup call, you know the methane issue has to be dealt with.  But it might not be sort of you know present to the extent that some people claim as well.  So today, to be able to measure it and the fact base approach to methane emissions is also very important.  But it’s something that the industry really recognize that they can do something about, you know.  And then you are left with the CO2 emissions and I think there is just not really.  I see a growth when it comes to natural gas which goes beyond what we see on oil and I see that into transportation, into industries.  And really some of the segments which is really hard to recognize and it has a significant role to play in taking a call into…

 

[00:34:27]

Jason Bordoff:  I wish, we had more time.  Just as a quick final question, so if you were starting your career again today or there are a lot of young people listening to this podcast, who are thinking about entering the energy sector.  What sort of advice would you give them about, how to go about doing that right now and where the growth opportunities are?

 

[00:34:44]

Eldar Sætre:  Well, I feel, there is a lot of interesting sectors.  But energy is definitely one of them.  So, to me, this all, you are really dealing with energy which is so essential to people, to mankind, to and with growing population we are going to need more.  It will even be more essential for more and more people.  So, this is really a place where you could have an impact, if you want to do good for the planet you know and energy is a really good place to start and oil and gas is here to stay for a long time.  We have to look, really looking into how do we do that? How do we produce that? You know, how can we decarbonize and then tie that into new.  So, energy is an amazing place.  And you will start and you will learn so much from working with energy that you can leverage into whatever you like to do in the rest of your life.

 

[00:35:32]

Jason Bordoff:  Eldar Sætre, CEO of Equinor.  I got the name right?

 

[00:35:35]

Eldar Sætre:  You got it right.

 

[00:35:36]

Jason Bordoff:  Thank you for spending time with us.  Hopefully, we will welcome you in person again soon to New York City but thanks for making time for us here in Stavanger on Columbia Energy Exchange.  Thanks to all of you for listening.  Until next time, I’m Jason Bordoff.

 

For more information about Columbia Energy Exchange and Center on Global Energy Policy, visit us online at Energypolicy.columbia.edu or follow us at Columbiauenergy on social media.  We’ll see you next week.