With Jan Müller at the helm, the Faroes Oil Industry Group strengthens its ties with key stakeholders — discussing the future of Faroes oil and gas exploration at a Tórshavn conference on 4 June.
The Managing Director of the Faroes Oil Industry Group (FOÍB) Jan Müller is a man on a mission. Since taking up his present post less than two years ago as part of a major restructuring of the organization he has worked tirelessly to promote the oil and gas industry in the Faroes. One very visible result of his efforts is the creation of the popular website www.oljan.fo with news and interviews from the industry.
FOÍB represents the oil companies with licenses in Faroese territory. Its main objective is to promote their interests. But in assessing how this can best be achieved they have recognized the need for a higher profile and a more proactive role in promoting oil exploration and the development of the industry in the Faroes.
“We can confidently state that FOÍB has now established a distinct public profile for itself in Faroese society,” says Mr. Müller, referring to the stream of invitations to give talks to schools and associations he receives. There have been regular interviews in the media as well as the assistance provided to the Faroexpo oil conference last autumn which was instrumental in the success of that event. He sees all this as part of FOÍB’s task to educate the Faroese public about the oil and gas industry. The message Mr. Müller wants to get across is the need for a sense of perspective as to where the Faroes currently stand in the search for hydrocarbons. “Since the heady days when we entered the new millennium with the all clear to start drilling in our waters, there has been a waning of interest and even some disillusion,” he acknowledges—oil and gas reserves have yet to be found in commercial quantities.
“But look at the limited number of wells that have been sunk here compared with our neighbors,” Mr. Müller adds.
“The flourishing developments West of Shetland which is right on our doorstep have demonstrated what sustained exploration efforts can lead to. With only seven wells drilled to date with an eighth in progress we have barely scratched the surface so far.”
‘All stakeholders’: Engagement with the Government has also been a priority for FOÍB under Mr. Müller. Lobbying to ensure an enabling environment for member companies to operate in is a basic function of a trade association. However, FOÍB has also sought to go beyond this by developing a partnership with Government to promote the Faroes as an attractive exploration prospect for oil companies. In a relatively short period, Mr. Müller has worked assiduously to set up arrangements for the closest of collaboration with the Faroes Earth and Energy Directorate (Jarðfeingi), the Prime Minister’s Office and the Faroese Representation in London.
While acknowledge that financial constraints are an inhibiting factor, Mr. Müller is keen for the Faroes to show the flag more at trade exhibitions overseas. “We have had a presence at these events at Stavanger and Aberdeen for many years now,” he says. “Maybe it is time to look how we can spread our wings further.”
For its part the Government has acknowledged the role of FOÍB as a significant stakeholder by the invitation for it to participate in the working group set up by the Prime Minister to map out a Faroese strategy for the Arctic region.
Overseas, Mr. Müller saw it as his priority from day one to establish close relations with FOÍB’s sister organizations in neighboring countries. He is very pleased at the progress that has been made in achieving this aim. “Both Oil & Gas UK and Norwegian Oil and Gas have been incredibly helpful and welcoming in responding to our approaches,” he says. “They are both keen to work very closely with FOÍB. Malcolm Webb, the CEO of Oil & Gas UK puts this cooperation in the context of oil and gas knowing no national boundaries, which is very true.”
The various strands of FOÍB’s work are to be brought together at the Faroe Prospects — Moving Forward on the Atlantic Margin, a conference to be held at the Nordic House in Tórshavn on 4 June 2013. According to Mr. Müller, the aim of the conference, organized in close consultation with Jarðfeingi and sponsored by Statoil, is to highlight the future of oil exploration on the Faroese Continental Shelf. Alongside this, the conference will address steps that need to be taken to facilitate the development of a flourishing oil and gas industry in the Faroes, including the question of marketing. Amongst the speakers are prominent industry personalities from overseas such as Mr. Webb and his Norwegian counterpart, Gro Brækken. Presentations will also be given by Rúni M. Hansen, head of Statoil’s Arctic Unit, Petur Joensen, director of Jarðfeingi, and Magni Arge, chairman of Faroe Industry Association amongst others.
“With all stakeholders present, this will be a golden opportunity to take stock of the current state of affairs and to formulate a future strategy for the oil and gas industry in the Faroes,” Mr. Müller says. “The fact that current licenses expire in 2015 should concentrate our minds in this regard.” He points to the positives on which the industry can now build including the ongoing Brugdan-2 prospect, which represents the largest ever investment on a single project in the Faroes; the long-term commitment of Statoil; ExxonMobil and Atlantic Petroleum stepping up their involvement; and the emergence of Faroese companies such as Føroya Tele, Thor, and Skansi Offshore as significant supply chain players.