National Champion: Statoil and Equinor since 2001

Marten Boon

Omslag van het boek ‘National Champion’ van Marten Boon

Marking the 50th anniversary of Norwegian energy company Equinor, lecturer and business historian Marten Boon recently published a book on the company’s history. Following the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the subsequent shuttering of Russian gas supplies, Equinor has recently become Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas, placing the company centre stage in Europe’s ongoing energy crisis.

‘National Champion’ is the result of an Equinor commissioned research project that was conducted at the University of Oslo between 2016 and 2022. In the book, Boon describes Equinor’s history over the past 20 years. Norwegian historian Eivind Thomassen authored a separate volume on the company’s history between 1972 and 2000.

Coming to terms with climate change

Boon shows how and why traditional oil and gas companies struggle to come to terms with climate change. In the past twenty years, Equinor first attempted to become a global oil and gas giant, investing heavily in controversial oil sands and shale projects in North America.

Mounting criticism over the oil industry’s response to climate change, however, forced Equinor to adapt its business model, which caused a decade of internal strife about why, when and how to become a greener company.

Norwegian paradox

Equinor’s internal struggle mirrors the paradox that Norway finds itself in today. Having grown fabulously prosperous from oil and gas, the country has been struggling to reconcile its carbon-based prosperity with its political ambition as a leading nation for sustainable development and climate action.

By billing itself as the cleanest oil and gas producer on the globe, Norway hopes to extend its oil and gas production as long as possible, despite leading energy institutions calling for a global moratorium on oil and gas exploration to keep global warming at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Equinor has pursued a similar strategy, Boon concludes. Under the guise of a growing renewable energy business, the company has no intention to scale down its oil and gas activities.