Final PhD Seminar: Sylvia Irene Lysgård

In this final seminar, Lysgård will present her PhD thesis draft about Statoil’s experiences with engaging in the production of Canadian oil sands, and how they had to balance many different concerns when doing so. 

To participate in this seminar please click this link (opens 9:55 AM September 11) 

Thesis title

Statoil & the Oil Sands: Tar versus Oil and the trouble of storytelling


While petroleum production and industry actors have received much attention when it comes to environmental issues, market alterations and geopolitics, less heed has been directed towards the specific accounts of reality such actors simultaneously produce. This study shows that to make oil “work” in today’s society is about more than physical extraction, transportation and distribution: Also worldviews and arguments for oil production activities and oil as reasonable product are imperative. It is about properly ‘configuring’ the setting in which the product must enter.
Lysgård has followed the Norwegian state-owned oil producer Statoil (today Equinor), in their decade long involvement in the Canadian oil sands (2007-2016). To move on land posed some challenges as well as opportunities for a company that mainly specialize in off shore production. Approx. 70 % of the discovered oil resources in the world are of heavy oil quality, with the Canadian oil sands as biggest known site. This fact alone made the oil sands an attractive business case, initially. However, Statoil, internationally credited as a “clean and green” producer, then also became part of the most land-seizing, energy demanding and emission-intensive oil production the world has seen – often referred to as “The Mordor of oil production”. As such, Statoil entered quite an unfamiliar, controversial ‘site’, which had some effects for the company and the public debates at home, and in Canada. How did Statoil strive to make room for the oil sands as acceptable solution in their portfolio, in a world increasingly aware of climate concerns? What were the initial arguments for entering, and how did Statoil communicate their involvement? Investigating both the content of Statoil’s oil sands stories, and the circumstances that prompted their storytelling, Lysgård demonstrates how content and context is coproduced within the stories made. Simultaneously asking ‘how have Statoil’s activities and stories about own project been met and protested to, in certain settings’; also other actors enter and perform in the material and analyses. In this way, the study shows how opposition towards Statoil not only comes from NGOs and other obvious antagonists, but also from within the Canadian oil sands industry.
By going in-depth on a handful of empirical episodes and situations Statoil were part of in the years they operated in the oil sands, Lysgård sheds light on the conflicting narratives made about the oil sands, and the role different production technologies play in this.


Göran Sundqvist, University of Gothenburg


Finn Arne Jørgensen, University of Stavanger

About Sylvia Irene Lysgård

Sylvia Irene Lysgård is a PhD Research Fellow at the TIK Centre. This seminar marks the final evaluation prior to submission of her dissertation.


Please register for the event by sending an e-mail to Ingrid Helene Johnsen, and you will receive a link to the Zoom-event.

The manuscript (draft) is available upon request. 


Published Sep. 4, 2020 1:10 PM - Last modified Sep. 10, 2020 9:17 AM