Texas State Capitol
The Committee gathered in front of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas
This was the first time the Committee visited Texas, and as the first part of their visit the Committee travelled to the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Upon arrival, the Committee was greeted by the Secretary of State John Steen, who held a short reception, before they were guided into the Texas House Chamber to listen to Governor Rick Perry’s State-of-the-State speech. Afterwards, the Committee was granted a meeting with the Governor, where relations between Texas and Norway were discussed and ideas on how to further build on them were presented. An engaged Governor Perry set aside half an hour for the meeting, underlining the high value Texas places on the relationship with Norway. The collaboration between the country of Norway and the State of Texas is not only strong within the energy sector – there is also a high level of collaboration in other areas, such as in the health sector and in higher education. Furthermore, the Governor also emphasized the relationship between Lockheed Martin and Norway through Norway’s planned acquisition of the F-35 fighter as important.
Following the visit to the State Capitol, the Committee was taken to the historic Driskill Hotel, for a lunch briefing regarding Statoil’s activities and strategy in the United States, given by Statoil VP Strategy & Portfolio Helge Haldorsen. Mr Haldorsen underscored the importance of the U.S. as an area of energy expansion and continued growth, especially through the Bakken field in N orth Dakota. Among the many distinguished guests were representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and speaker Mr. Toby Baker, and from Gardere, who sponsored the lunch. The delegation was then transported to Statoil’s offices in Austin for further briefing.
Briefing at Statoil's Austin office about their operations in the U.S.
On the agenda was the acquisition of Brigham Exploration by Statoil in 2011 and the successful integration of the company. This acquisition enabled Statoil to branch into fracking, which in turn has strengthened and diversified their company portfolio. The Committee was presented with both the further strategy of Statoil, which was mainly focused on developing the fields in their possession, as well as investing in technologies to move forward, and with an overview of their current areas of operation. Statoil also spent time explaining the importance of corporate responsibility and gave details regarding some of their public programs, such as those in which they donate money to communities that have experienced pressure on their economy as a result of the expansion of the company’s fracking activity. During the Q&A session, the Committee engaged with Statoil on questions regarding the potential environmental impact of fracking, and a fruitful discussion arose around the way in which Statoil deals with the rights of landowners.
Business Roundtable at Norway House
The following day, the Committee took part in a business roundtable at Norway House in Houston. The companies represented at the event were Statoil, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), National Oilwell Varco (NOV), Kongsberg Maritime, Aker Solutions, Axess, Odfjell, and DNB. The roundtable was hosted by the Consulate General, with Innovation Norway and the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce as additional, local participants. The overall purpose of the roundtable was for the companies’ representatives to inform the Committee about their current and planned business activities in Texas and the U.S., followed by a discussion concerning conditions for doing business in a Norway-U.S. context. Most of these companies work in the energy sector, which makes Houston a natural spot to establish an office.
Business roundtable at Norway House
Also, due to the growing economy of Houston and the State of Texas, the links between Norwegian companies and Houston continue to grow stronger. During the roundtable discussion, the importance of Export Credit and GIEK in particular was highlighted by Hege Kverneland of NOV. She emphasized that without the contributions of these institutions, it would have been highly unlikely that the company would have been able to establish viable branches in Norway. Moreover, it was also brought to the Committee’s attention that a contributing factor to the flourishing business environment in Houston also comes as a result of a vibrant and helpful Norwegian community in and around the city. On behalf of the Committee, Chairman Ketil Solvik-Olsen thanked the companies, underscoring what he saw as a dynamic Norwegian business climate in Houston.
Tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center
As part of a broader outlook on Houston, Texas and the United States, the Committee also visited the NASA Johnson Space Center, where they were able to get a better understanding of the financial situation of NASA, and the impact it has had on the research and business side, as well as what kind of research is conducted at the space center. Of special interest was the focus NASA has on health research, such as the progress they have had with isolating the protein in salmonella that makes humans sick, and thus potentially being able to create a vaccine against the bacteria.
The Committee’s successful visit to Houston also included meetings at Rice University regarding demographic and business trends in Texas, and a meeting with Mr. Charles Foster regarding pressing immigration issues in Texas and the U.S. at large. Finally, the Committee was given a comprehensive briefing by Mr. Mike Moore about the energy revolution in the U.S., which was coupled by a briefing by Sargas and General Electric about Carbon Capture Storage.
To see the complete program for the Committee's visit, click here.