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Statoil Kicking ‘Oil’ From Name, Rebranding as ‘Equinor’

Statoil ASA, whose North American portfolio stretches from Canada’s offshore to the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), unveiled plans Thursday to rebrand as “Equinor” to reflect a broader energy strategy that elevates alternative energy and downgrades fossil fuels.

“Equinor” would combine “equi” (equal, equality and equilibrium) and “nor,” a nod to its roots. The supermajor is headquartered in the port city of Stavanger in Norway.

“The world is changing, and so is Statoil,” said Chairman Jon Erik Reinhardsen. “The biggest transition our modern-day energy systems have ever seen is underway, and we aim to be at the forefront of this development. Our strategy remains firm. The name Equinor reflects ongoing changes and supports the always safe, high value and low carbon strategy we outlined last year.”

Rebranding is expected to cost an estimated US$32.5 million, said CEO Eldar Saetre.

“For us, this is a historic day,” he added Thursday during a press conference. “Statoil has for almost 50 years served us well. Looking toward the next 50 years, reflecting on the global energy transition and how we are developing as a broad energy company, it has become natural to change our name. The name Equinor captures our heritage and values, and what we aim to be in the future.”

The new name is to be proposed to shareholders at the annual general meeting scheduled May 15. The Norwegian government, as 67% shareholder, “supports the proposal and will vote in favor of the resolution,” executives said.

“Equinor is a powerful expression of who we are, where we come from and what we aspire to be,” Saetre said. “We are a values-based company, and equality describes how we want to approach people and the societies where we operate.

“The Norwegian continental shelf will remain the backbone of our company, and we will use our Norwegian heritage in our positioning as we continue growing internationally within both oil, gas and renewable energy.

Last year, Statoil’s management team laid out principles to develop a competitive portfolio, citing the long-term value on the Norwegian continental shelf, as well as plans to expand in core areas and develop international options.

Statoil already is one of the leading global oil and gas producers. It now plans to “develop its low carbon advantage further,” said executives, “building a material industrial position within profitable renewable energy.”

At the Oil & Money conference held last fall in London, Saetre predicted that fossil fuel consumption would decline, but slowly. Statoil recently began operating with partner Masdar on the Hywind Scotland project, the world's first floating wind farm. The 30 MW wind farm, operated by Statoil, is to provide electricity for about 20,000 households.

However, even with the breakthrough project, oil and gas, Saetre said, “will definitely be around for a long time.”

In its annual Energy Perspectives report to 2050 published last summer, Statoil said low natural gas prices would “spur competitiveness and provide market opportunities," leading to a positive outlook for demand, particularly for price-sensitive emerging markets. Statoil also offered an upbeat macro and market outlook for gas over at least the next decade, as liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports increase and markets expand.

The company has joined efforts by Big Oil producers to reduce methane emissions from its natural gas assets in the United States. Statoil also has been involved in other U.S. projects to reduce its carbon footprint.

The producer, formerly Norway’s state-owned oil and gas company, operates in 30 countries and has close to 20,500 employees. Statoil was formed after it completed a merger in 2007 with the oil and gas division of Norsk Hydro, a former big U.S. operator.

Statoil previously outlined plans to invest 15-20% of total capital expenditures in new energy solutions by 2030, up from about 5% in 2017. It plans to spend $500-750 million from 2017-2020 on renewable and low-carbon solutions. From 2020-2025, it plans to spend $750 million to $1.5 billion on alternative solutions.

The rebranded Statoil would still remain firmly entrenched in fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. Long a major GOM operator, Statoil also was an early entrant into the U.S. onshore’s unconventional business. It also has its hands in LNG projects.

Last summer, Statoil was one of the high bidders in GOM Lease Sale 249. Also last summer, Statoil partnered with YPF SA to explore the promising Vaca Muerta shale formation in the Neuquen Basin onshore Argentina.

“We delivered solid results for 2017 and are today in a strong position,” Saetre said. “We have strengthened our competitiveness, radically improved our project portfolio and have a clear strategy for further development of our company.

“As we position ourselves for long-term value creation and to be competitive also in a low carbon future, we have been searching for a name that captures our heritage and values, and at the same time reflects the opportunities we see.”

If the name is formally approved in May, the rebranding would officially begin, said corporate communication chief Reidar Gjaerum. As an aside, in a straw poll conducted by Statoil’s hometown newspaper, Stavager Aftenblad, 4,730 people said they did not like the proposed name while 809 said they did.

Wood Mackenzie’s Norman Valentine, senior vice president of corporate analysis, said the rebranding “is a bold reinforcement of the company’s shift toward new energy solutions and low carbon. Statoil’s strategy has become differentiated from the other majors” under Saetre’s leadership.

“The focus on offshore wind has obvious synergies with Statoil’s legacy oil and gas business. Returns from wind power could add a steady, long-life element to the company’s cash flow outlook, offsetting the risk of decline from core oil and gas assets next decade.

“Equinor will also start life with a carbon intensity advantage. We estimate Statoil’s carbon emissions intensity is the lowest of any large oil and gas company.”

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