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Canada: Norway's key partner in the Arctic

Artur Wilczynski, Former Canadian Ambassador to Norway

In 2017, the Embassy of Canada to Norway celebrated the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Canada and Norway. “2017 was a great year for the Canadian- Norwegian relationship. Norway is a key partner for various reasons,” says Artur Wilczynski, Canadian Ambassador to Norway. “Economically, it is the most significant relationship that we have established in the Nordics”, he adds. In terms of the market for Canadian goods and services, Canada engages in nearly as much trade with Norway as with Sweden, Finland, and Denmark combined.

The Embassy of Canada to Norway promotes economic opportunities between both countries. “There are great opportunities for Canadian companies in Norway. Finding partnerships and helping our Norwegian partners in Canada is also an important task,” says A. Wilczynski. Canada and Norway have built a strong relationship in terms of onshore and offshore activities, but among the diverse areas in which Norway and Canada work, oil and gas is a key sector for both countries. “There are significant opportunities, especially in the offshore business in Newfoundland, Labrador, and the rest of the Atlantic Canada,” says A. Wilczynski.

Norwegian companies have been involved in a range of sectors related to offshore oil and gas including shuttle tankers, seismic, construction and, especially, research. “Research is a key area and the Embassy of Canada aims to raise awareness of the excellent opportunities and partnerships available in this field,”says A. Wilczynski. Furthermore, Statoil (now Equinor) has been a key partner and actor in Canada for a number of years. The company has been active in offshore projects in Newfoundland and Labrador and it is one of the partners for the Hebron project.

Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia are the provinces where offshore oil and gas activities are focused in Canada. “The resource potential here is great and recently, one of the largest seismic programs has been carried out to map such potential,” says A. Wilczynski. According to the analysis completed in 2016, Newfoundland and Labrador estimate that the resource potential in the region amounts to 12 billion barrels of oil and 3.2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. “The offshore potential in the Newfoundland and Labrador area should be appreciated, it has a larger area than the Gulf of Mexico,” says A. Wilczynski.

Major players have acquired licenses in Nova Scotia, following the publication of the Play Fairway Analysis. Organizations such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), have analyzed the need for additional pipelines in Canada to follow the increase in oil and gas production in the coming years.

Due to the harsh climate in the East Coast, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, icebergs are a common sight. Thus, Canada has developed substantial expertise in harsh climates such as the Arctic. Even though the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is located in the Subarctic region, numerous technologies such as ice surveillance, iceberg prediction, iceberg management and the design of structures to operate in harsh environments, have been developed to enable Arctic development. “There are a range of areas in which Canadian companies have expertise to address the challenges of ice formations,” adds A. Wilczynski. Furthermore, firms co-exist within fishery and oil and gas, which is essential to maintain balance in their activities.

In order to develop the resources in harsh climate environments, the oil and gas industry is required to face the challenges of the physical environment, infrastructure availability, and access to human capital. “When working in a harsh climate, we are provided with an opportunity to look at the challenges of operating in remote areas that are of interest to Norway,” says A. Wilczynski. “Canada boasts a large territory and 90% of the population live in a narrow area hugging the US border. For example, in our part of the Arctic, which amounts to 4 million square kilometers, the population is roughly 120,000,” he adds.

While Arctic development has been a hot topic in the oil and gas sector, Canada is not issuing licenses in the Arctic for oil and gas development. The Canadian Government has decided on a 5-year moratorium, renewed every 5 years. Given Canada’s geographic conditions, Arctic technology and expertise can surely be applied here. “The offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador has conditions far more similar to the Arctic than, for example, the Norwegian Continental Shelf,” says A. Wilczynski.

Norway is exploring further in the North, the Barents Sea, and other areas, and the Ambassador mentions that some of the required technologies could be developed by means of partnerships with Canada. “I believe that Canada, Norway, and other Arctic countries closely cooperate on issues related to the Arctic, be it environmental protection, working together on shipping standards, or in search and rescue. There is much to learn from one another,” says A. Wilczynski.

Norway and Canada share some similarities in the way they do business. “In a range of fields, Canada offers an unparalleled level of competitiveness. We are at a crossroad of international commerce, especially in the oil and gas sector,” says A. Wilczynski. “Generally speaking, Canada is an attractive place for investments and for Norwegians to come and work in; it is a positive environment for Norwegians,” adds the Ambassador. Furthermore, he emphasizes on the egalitarian and socially constructive approach to business which provides comfort to Norwegians operating in such an environment.

Canada’s stable legal framework allows companies interested in investing in Canada to establish operations with ease and capitalize on partnership opportunities. “A Canadian Federal program gives preferential tax treatment for R&D and there are also provincial programs,” adds A. Wilczynski. “Canadian academic institutions across the country provide the industry with some of the most committed engineering experts. We have world-class engineering schools that deliver world class talent and are easily accessible by Norwegian companies,” says A. Wilczynski. Canada’s brand is focused on building and maintaining the presence of a welcoming place for people from around the world.

Canada has built a strong global position by being in the G7, it has access to the US, Europe, and Asia. The Canadian economy is dynamic, shows strong growth and offers a high-standard of living. One of the goals of the Embassy of Canada to Norway is to ensure that Norwegian companies and Norwegians think about Canada from an economic point of view. “The Embassy of Canada to Norway has spent considerable time trying to raise the profile of Canada in the business community and the government,” says A. Wilczynski. “We strive to establish ties between companies in sectors that we believe have growth opportunities, one of them is offshore,” he adds. The Embassy of Canada to Norway aims to strengthen the relationship between both countries and raise awareness about Canada in Norway and, in particular, about the economic opportunities there.

Canada is investing heavily in green technologies and has been at the forefront of technologies such as carbon capture and storage. Both countries are committed to mitigating greenhouse emissions under the Paris Agreement. “Canada and Norway are both investing considerably in technologies to mitigate the effects that oil and gas have on the environment,” says A. Wilczynski. “Domestically, Norway is a small consumer in terms of oil and gas, but it is a large producer. Canada is a big consumer because not all areas have the same access to hydroelectricity. However, there is hope for greater cooperation for the development of green technologies,” concludes the Ambassador. While Norway offers important opportunities for Canadian companies due to its highly developed subsea expertise, Canada is a key partner to have when addressing the challenges of the Arctic.

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