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In memory of Hans Christen Rønnevik

Former exploration manager in Lundin Energy Norway, Hans Christen Rønnevik, sadly passed away Wednesday night at the age of 75. Few people have been more significant for the Norwegian oil and gas industry. Hans Christen contributed to many of the major discoveries on the Norwegian Shelf, including Edvard Grieg and Johan Sverdrup. The Norwegian King recently appointed him Knight First Class of the Order of St. Olav for his efforts.

Hans Christen Rønnevik was one of the last true pioneers in the Norwegian oil and gas industry. With his passing, the industry has lost one of its most impactful figures. For almost 50 years, he contributed to how the nation has managed the resources and value that lie within the Norwegian Shelf.  His vast expertise within the geosciences was crucial for many large discoveries and fields. But he never worked for his own glory. The greater community was at the heart of everything he did. He was committed to ensuring that the value from oil and gas should contribute to building society and industrial development. And for him, exploration geology was a team sport.

In 1972, a 27-year-old Hans Christen Rønnevik was employed at the Oil Office in the Ministry of Industry. Management of the Norwegian Shelf had not yet been assigned its own ministry. Here he contributed to formulating the stewardship principles we know today, where the lion’s share of the profit from oil production goes to the State and our broader society. And he was probably the person with the best understanding of the vast value at stake. Indeed, it was Hans Christen who prepared the first total estimate of the resources on the Shelf.

From 1973, Hans Christen was a petroleum geologist at the newly formed Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. Among other things here, he took part in what he himself described as perhaps the most important thing ever to occur on the Norwegian Shelf, and the most important project he took part in as a geologist – the announcement of the 4th licensing round, where they had mapped the prospects that later became Troll, Gullfaks, Oseberg and Snorre.

From 1983 and for the rest of his active career, Rønnevik devoted his time to searching for oil and gas. First as an exploration geologist in Norske Shell, and later as exploration manager in Saga Petroleum, DNO and finally, Lundin Energy Norway. He is probably best remembered for the results he and his team achieved in Lundin. The establishment of the company in 2004 was founded on Hans Christen’s exploration model for the Utsira High. This is the most mature area on the Norwegian Shelf, and it was an area that most people thought had already been thoroughly explored. Rønnevik, and a select few others, thought that there were still significant opportunities here. History proved them right! The first exploration well encountered what would later become the Edvard Grieg field. This well also provided crucial information which led Rønnevik and his team to discover Johan Sverdrup in 2010.

Above all, Hans Christen Rønnevik was a skilled professional. And his enormous scientific talents and insight were noticed and highly prized, both in the geosciences community and in the broader academic community, both in Norway and internationally. The list of awards and distinctions he received is long. He has received the Norwegian Petroleum Society’s special award, and a special award from the Norwegian Academy for Science and Letters. But highest among all the professional distinctions is certainly the AAPG Norman Foster Award. This award is handed out by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and is probably the closest one can come to an ‘Oscar’ in petroleum geology. Hans Christen is the only European ever to receive the award.

In 2019, he received the Norwegian award above all others – that is when H.R. Highness the King made Hans Christen Rønnevik Knight First Class of the Order of St. Olav for his work. He received the distinction for his efforts within petroleum geology, and the significance his work has had for value creation and employment.

Hans Christen used his role as a leader to create an environment that paved the way for the creativity he believed was necessary to find oil and gas. He felt that the best solutions were crafted through dialogue, discussion and sharing data and knowledge. That’s why he always practiced an open office landscape, with a ‘duty to discuss’. No one had their own office, not even him. Instead, he sat with geologists, geophysicists and others with cutting-edge expertise, and he was constantly working on new concepts and new opportunities. One of his mantras was that ‘everyone sees a part of the reality, but no one sees the whole’. Therefore, it was always important to be open to new ideas , a new understanding and new lessons to be learned. Unlike most others, Hans Christen was on the hunt for data points that did not fit with the exploration model. Not to get rid of them, but to use them as a gateway to new knowledge and new exploration models.

Right up to his last working day before Christmas 2020, Hans Christen was engrossed in geoscience, as was his habit. And always with a long perspective. Then he was working on the 25th licensing round, and potential prospects that might be interesting for Lundin to apply for in the spring. Few, if any, have laid a greater foundation for value creation from the Norwegian Shelf than Hans Christen Rønnevik. So, although the man is gone, we will continue to harvest the fruits of his labour for many decades to come.