The Nordområde Conference was held in Harstad from 30 Oct – 01 Nov. The conference covers the Oil & Gas and aquaculture sectors, with an emphasis on the business opportunities for suppliers. The petroleum companies are seeking greater involvement of local suppliers, while the fish farming industry is experiencing rapid growth at present. In addition to the presentations on industry-supplier relationships there were four presentations and a panel discussion concerned with expectations for how digitalisation will affect the industrial market, and the plans for a petroleum branch strategy for digitalisation of the petroleum sector.

As such the conference was a very good match to the interest areas for the project, and would have served well as a forum for the planned workshop in Norway focussing on the offshore sector. However, the timing of the northern conference was not good, coming close to the date for the “ValueMine” workshop in Gällivare, 29 Nov 2018. The following is a short summary of the content from the Nord conference.

Topic 1: A Blue Sea – three blue business areas – analysis and possibilities

This section emphasised the growth that is occurring within the offshore industry and the flow on/ripple effects. There were two presentations, from the NHO Trade politics department director, and from a research manager from SINTEF Oceans research institute. They emphasised the role that technological innovations play within new production facilities and operational optimisations. The interaction between technology and biology was particularly highlighted.

Topic 2: Market opportunities for the supplier industry

The second section covered the relationship between petroleum companies and their suppliers. Equinor (formerly Statoil) highlighted the use of local supplier companies, and the flow-on effects for local companies. In particular, the planning for the start-up of the Johan Castberg well production was covered. Supplier companies in the north were encouraged to make alliances with Equinor’s existing main suppliers, both in the construction and operation phases. Lundin (A Swedish petroleum company) then gave a presentation about the status and further plans for the Alta/Gohta field in the Barents Sea.

Topic 3: Digitalisation in the petroleum sector

As is happening elsewhere in industry, the petroleum sector is giving increased attention to the application of new digital technologies. Equinor presented their “Digital Roadmap”, and there was a presentation regarding the expectations for digitalisation for the Aasta Hansteen field development. There followed a presentation giving suggestions on what aspects of digitalisation suppliers should have focus on, and then a presentation from Cognite that gave practical examples of gains from new digital technologies applied in petroleum development and operation. There was then a panel discussion with these presenters with questions from the audience. One concern raised was the wide range of operating systems used on the different sites, and the complexities for suppliers to be adept in all. To some extent this was countered by the presentation by Cognite – the digital solutions are largely open source and flexible.

Havfarm (green structure), superimposed on an image of the Goliat oil platform (grey/red/white) to illustrate the scale of the new fish farming concept for open water (Illustration from NSK).

Topic 4: Future developments in fish farming

With the downturn in the petroleum sector there has been a focus on applying the offshore competence in other sectors, such as fish farming, which is experience rapid growth at present. A variety of presentations highlighted the application of new technologies to fish farming, and utilising competence from the petroleum sector. This combination of fish farming and petroleum competence was highlighted as offering new opportunities for the supplier industry. Experiences from a collaborative network established in Senja with 70 companies involved were presented showing the advantage of the collaboration. The fish farm operations highlighted what challenges they were facing, and the suppliers in the network worked to develop technological solutions. The network was a test area for developing new technologies. This was further highlighted in another presentation on the development concessions, which are a strong driver for development and adoption of new technologies. The overall impression was that it was easier for new suppliers to gain access to the fish farming industry.
The scale of the fish farming operations was illustrated in a presentation by NSK where they described the development of the “Havfarm” concept. Whereas fish farming has traditionally been located in sheltered fjord arms, there is interest in shifting the operations out to the open sea. The Havfarm is a concept developed by NSK for Nordlaks and currently under construction in China. To illustrate the scale of the Havfarm it was shown with the oil platform Goliat superimposed. This is a large scale facility, and requires a high degree of automation in order to be operated in the open sea.

The conference was a good match to the interest areas of the Interreg Process-SME project. Further details from the conference are available. The presentations will be made available on the internet, at the moment only the presentations from last year’s conference are available:

Presentasjoner 2017

On the downside, the conference was expensive – participation fee was 8000 NOK, and was quoted 140 000 NOK for a joint display stand which could have been used to promote supplier companies from the Interreg project. As it turned out only 3 companies of the 75 attending had a display stand. The favoured approach was direct contact between companies in the breaks between sessions.

Ross Wakelin
Northern Research Institute Narvik A.S.
(47) 99 252 485

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