Anders Opedal, a 52-year-old veteran of the oil industry, has been tapped to lead Norwegian state oil company Equinor into what his predecessor Eldar Sætre calls “the next phase of the energy transition.” Equinor confirmed Monday morning that Sætre will be stepping down as chief executive officer, but not because of all the recent uproar over losses at its US operations.
Even media commentators stressed that there wasn’t any real drama over Sætre’s decision to step down. He’ll turn 65 next year and as he stated himself on Monday, he’s spent his “entire working life” at the company. Sætre started at the former Statoil in 1980 and rose to become finance director until he was chosen to succeed Helge Lund as CEO in 2014.
In 2018 the board of directors at the company now known as Equinor asked the likeable Sætre from Vartdal in Western Norway to extend his contract by up to five years and he agreed. The search for a new CEO was nonetheless launched, even before Equinor became embroiled in the scandal over its huge losses in the US that allegedly were covered up for years.
Now the board has settled on Opedal as Equinor’s new leader, due to take over from November 2. Equinor’s shares rose 1.2 percent on the news when trading opened Monday on Oslo Stock Exchange. Opedal, an engineer with a master’ degree from the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, has also been a long-time employee of Statoil/Equinor. He started at Statoil as a petroleum engineer in 1997 after working first for oil service firms Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, and has most recently been executive vice president (EVP) of technology, projects and drilling. That job will be taken over by Geir Tungesvik, at least temporarily.
Opedal is also a former head of Statoil/Equinor’s operations in Brazil, where the company has major expansion plans over the next five years. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) described Opedal as also “well-liked” within the company, and he’s the first engineer to assume the role of CEO.
“I know Anders well and I’m certain he is the right person to lead the company in this next phase of the energy transition,” Sætre stated in a company press release. Opedal will receive a base salary of NOK 9.1 million and “participate in variable pay schemes” that can boost that by as much as 50 percent plus pension and other benefits.
‘Massive transition’ ahead
Opedal himself called his appointment “an honour” and said he was “proud” to take over responsibility as CEO. He also said he was “confident” in the company, its people and “our ability to change and continue creating long-term value … also in a low carbon future.”
He’ll now be charged with accelerating the development of Equinor as a more broad-based energy company with much more emphasis on alternative energy like wind power, according to the board. Opedal himself called it a “massive transition” for a company that has long produced fossil fuels.
Opedal was also among top candidates for the job with the least direct involvement in the scandal over Equinor’s huge losses in the US that’s shaken Equinor this year. DN reported earlier this summer how other internal candidates Torgrim Reitan, Lars Christian Bacher and Irene Rummelhoff were all involved in Statoil/Equinor’s ill-fated investments in North America that now are subject to both internal and external investigations.