Abstract: Competition and Cooperation in the Norwegian Offshore Oil Industry

Gunnar Nerheim


When multinational oil companies began oil exploration on the continental shelf offshore Norway after 1965, all necessary skills and technologies were imported. The main agents in the technology transfer were the multinational oil companies and their subcontractors. In the same way that Spindletop changed Texas after 1901, the Ekofisk discovery in late 1969 changed the course of Norwegian history. Control of politics at all levels was the key to Texan dominance of the state's emerging petroleum industry. Texans accepted capital from outsiders, but strictly on their own terms. The same strategy was used by Norway in the 1970s. In 1971 the Norwegian Parliament hammered out ten political commandments for offshore oil, later effectively translated into pathbreaking decisions. By 1980 the offshore industry had become the leading sector in the Norwegian economy. Networking became an important survival strategy for long-term players in the Norwegian offshore industry. This paper will focus on competition and cooperation between foreign multinational oil companies and Norwegian oil companies on the one hand, and between Norwegian oil companies on the other. In addition, the wide range of oil contractor and service companies that live in the wake of and interact strongly with the oil companies will be analyzed. The Norwegian case will shed new light on the role of networks within and between companies in the international offshore industry more generally.