Seeing the light from Aurora - OKEA

Seeing the light from Aurora


September 22nd 2020

Aurora is a perfect project for OKEA. It represents the core of our business model, namely development small and medium-sized fields and it is in an area where we already are present. It is one of several good projects we now have in our portfolio.

Espen Myhra is head of business development and commercial at OKEA (SVP Business Development). He is looking forward to embarking on the development of Aurora, a name associated with something bright and exciting. Aurora Borealis is known as the Northern Lights.

– It is in an area where we already have ownership interests in Gjøa. This is in many ways our backyard between Vega and Gjøa. It is a discovery we are convinced we can develop in a good and cost-efficient way.

Good deal

Myhra believes the agreement between Equinor and OKEA is an example of how it should be in the industry. This is OKEA’s core business, not Equinor’s. It also came at the right time for the company.

– It is a very good agreement that was further strengthened by the tax changes that have been approved by the Parliament (Stortinget). This discovery has been on the “shelf” far too long. Now we have taken it of the “shelf” and mobilized for a rapid development. Here, two companies have found a deal that is good for both parties.

The goal is a plan for development and operation (PDO) in 2022 and the first production in the second quarter of 2024. Myhra describes it as a development project that is not complicated, a subsea fast track tie-in to Gjøa.

– We have the expertise in the company, and it is not unreasonably ambitious to set a goal of production in 2024.

In the driver’s seat

The official webpage of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate states that the discovery will probably not be developed. Myhra believes this will change in a few months when OKEA takes over as operator. Myhra also sees many good opportunities in the portfolio the company already has today, and he thinks OKEA is very well positioned to take advantage of the temporary tax changes and create values for both the state and our shareholders. This applies to projects such as Hasselmus, Power from shore and Grevling.

– These are exciting projects that will also be profitable. In addition, we have ambitious plans for Draugen. What we have accomplished there shows how important it is to be in the driver’s seat. We will continue that work. We will deliver on the core of what we do, minor discoveries and extensions of the field life on Draugen.

Believe in gas

OKEA is investing in a gas field, even though gas prices are very low right now. Many people think it is bold.

– We are in a cyclical industry with large fluctuations. Our view is that oil and gas prices will pick up again. I believe there will still be high demand for oil and gas for many decades to come. There will be an increasing population in the world that needs to be helped out of poverty – that requires energy.

Myhra points out that Norway’s gas exports are regional, most of which goes to Europe. There, it largely replaces coal, which results in reduced CO2 emissions. He refers to the report that recently came from DNV GL (Veritas) where the demand for natural gas is expected to grow and the global demand will continue to be somewhat higher in 2050 than in 2019.

– It confirms that we still have to find and develop more gas fields. There are large parts of the Norwegian Continental Shelf that is still underexplored.


Myhra believes it is right to invest and focus fully on renewable energy and industry. At the same time, he is sure that it will take a long time before the enormous amount of energy in oil and gas can be replaced. He points out that Norway is an important supplier of gas to the EU, with a share of 22 percent.

– I think the EU is concerned about getting oil and gas from countries that use it in a political game. Norway’s production accounts for a few percent of the world’s consumption of petroleum; we cannot leave such a strategic resource to countries we would rather not compare ourselves with. If we reduce our production, there will be plenty of others who will take over the production – with higher emissions. Demand controls production, not the other way around.

From Ministry to OKEA

Espen Myhra went from the world’s safest job as department director and official in the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to a new and rather small company in Trondheim.

It was no wonder it attracted attention when the 46-year-old from Hadsel resigned from his ministry post in 2015. It was a period of mass dismissals in the industry.

– It was bold, but I did it because I believed in the project. I believed in the concept, the ideas, and the people behind it. I am proud of what we do at OKEA and it is important that all of us who work in the petroleum industry stand up for and are proud of what we do. I think there are far too many, both companies and individuals, who try to apologize for working in the oil and gas industry. If you cannot stand for what you are doing, then you have to find something else to do.

In the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy he was involved in developing the strategy for increased competition on the Norwegian Shelf. He was worried about the big companies that only went after the biggest fields. Award in Pre-Defined Areas (APA) was important in the new policy for the shelf. During that time, he became well familiar with Erik Haugane, and as head of the exploration section in the ministry, he became familiar with Ole Borten Moe during his time as Minister of Petroleum and Energy.

– OKEA has lived up to my expectations. It has been a very exciting journey to be part of. We have been pioneers in several areas. We had a concept at Yme that OKEA would have liked to have implemented as an operator. The acquisition of Draugen from Shell was an important leap for the company in line with the strategy.

Low profile

Throughout his career, Myhra has tried to avoid attention and press coverage. You will neither find many posts on Facebook, or other social media platforms, but he still describes himself as a very social person.

– I am a family man with two girls age 13 and 15 who take up a lot of time, it is nice and for me it is the meaning of life. I like to socialize, gather friends and acquaintances at home for a good meal. I am probably better at eating than cooking, but I am good at setting the table and tidying up. We always want there to be an open door at home for both our friends and the friends of my children.

– What about rock climbing, tennis or other physical exercises that are so common in the industry you are in.

– I am extremely uninterested in sports, both for my own part and for what goes on TV. I am so weird in that area that I suggested dancing in my gym classes rather than playing football. I am not afraid to go my own way.

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