Striking Workers on Brink of Shutting Down Western Europe’s Largest Oilfield

Workers are demanding increased pay and conditions at onshore remote-control rooms that match those of offshore platforms.
October 8, 2020, 6:06pm

Forty-three workers in Norway could bring Sverdrup, the largest oil field on stream in Western Europe to a grinding halt on October 14, in a strike over pay and working conditions. 

The looming shutdown of the Sverdrup oil field is part of an ongoing work stoppage that spread earlier this week across the Norweigan continental shelf, one of the top oil producing regions in the world. 

“If the ongoing strike on the Norwegian continental shelf continues until 14 October, the Johan Sverdrup field in the North Sea will have to close production until further notice,” Equinor, which owns the Sverdrup oil field said in a statement on October 7. 


One hundred and sixty nine striking workers across four oil platforms are demanding the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association match the pay and conditions at onshore remote-control rooms with those of offshore platform workers. 

On Thursday, their union announced an escalation, saying the strike will spread to four new oil platforms on Sunday if the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association and the union cannot reach an agreement. One of these platforms is run by U.S. producer ConocoPhillips. 

The Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, which represents oil and gas employers across the country, said the strike could soon wipe out 25 percent of Norway’s oil and gas production. 

“Nearly a quarter of total oil and gas production from the Norwegian continental shelf could be affected if the Norwegian Organisation of Managers and Executives opts to remain on strike,” Norwegian Oil and Gas Association wrote in a statement on its website on Thursday.

While the number of striking workers is relatively small—the impact of their strike could cost oil and gas producers hundreds of millions of dollars. Sverdrup alone has an output of up to 470,000 barrels of oil per day. 

Norway’s oil and gas production has declined in recent decades, but the development of the massive Sverdrup oil field, which lies 86 miles off the coast of western Norway, has prompted industry experts to speculate about a new oil boom in the country—worrying climate activists that this will hamper efforts to fight climate change. 

Equinor and Lederne did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s requests for comment.