‘Magical’ oil man turns sights north

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The new chief executive of the Norwegian operations for Dutch oil company Shell says the company is keen to expand oil and gas exploration in both the Barents and Norwegian Sea. Tor Arnesen, who cultivates a passion for performing as a magician in his spare time, calls the area “very exciting and interesting.”

Tor Arnesen, the new boss for Shell in Norway, also spends time cultivating an interest in magic. PHOTO: Norske Shell

Arnesen, who took over as head of Norske Shell this autumn, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that Shell is poised for growth on the Norwegian continental shelf and is preparing applications for exploration activity in the Barents. He also hopes Norwegian politicians will open up the waters around Lofoten and Vesterålen off northern Norway for exploration, but that’s a controversial prospect because of the area’s scenic beauty and rich fishing grounds.

Shell reportedly is willing to invest tens of billions of kroner in the Norwegian Sea, another example of the record-high levels of interest in exploration areas in Norway’s Arctic areas, not least from large international companies.

Arnesen, originally from Ski south of Oslo, studied at the University of Stavanger and has worked for Shell since 1984, mostly in personnel, strategy and internal communication. He most recently worked at Shell’s headquarters in the Netherlands as a member of the global leadership group for HR (human resources) before being named boss of Norske Shell, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Shell, which has around 1,500 employees in Norway, operates the Draugen oil field and the expanding Ormen Lange gas field in the Norwegian Sea, is a partner or part-owner in nine other Norwegian offshore fields and is involved in 15 other licenses, in addition to having retail gasoline stations around the country. Nonetheless, “we still have a lot to do here,” said Arnesen, whom DN referred to as an “unusual oil man.”

That’s at least in part because the 55-year-old Norwegian nurtures a hobby as a magician. He’s been a member of Magisk Circel Norge, the national association for active magicians, since 1975.

He told Magisk Circel’s website just a few years ago that he started performing magic tricks when he was 13-14 years old, after inheriting the interest from his father and grandfather, who initially showed him how to do some card tricks.

His long career in Shell and the travel demands of his job have interfered with his passion for magic at times, he conceded, but he remains keen to stay up to date on the latest in the magical world. He told DN, for example, that he planned to take part in a magicians’ event in Trondheim over the weekend.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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