Norway to Help Madagascar Develop Petroleum Regs

Over the next five years, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) will be assisting Madagascar in establishing a reliable petroleum management system. For Turid Oygard this means that she will soon be moving from Stavanger to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.

The assistance provided to the Madagascan people will consist of petroleum activities regulation, handling of various petroleum data and mapping of resources. In addition, assistance will be provided to define precisely where the borders of their shelf run, support to purchase computer equipment and assistance in the areas of environmental protection, anti corruption and asset management. The main objective of this contribution is to ensure that the Madagascan people obtain maximum benefit from the petroleum reserves, and it was they who approached the Norwegian authorities with a request for assistance in this matter.

In the agreement signed in early May this year, the NPD is committed to posting one local representative at Madagascar. For the next year, the regulator's representative will be Turid Oygard, and she is looking forward to it.

"Madagascar is an exciting country, and this work is so meaningful, that naturally I am looking forward to going," said Oygard. "The project is part of the governmental 'Oil for development' program and means we are providing aid in our area of expertise."

Oygard will be boarding her plane in early June and will be joined by her husband and children in a month or so. To start with she will be househunting and familiarizing herself with the work and tasks at hand. Her function will be to act as liaison between the specialists and the governmental bodies of both countries, and for such a project to work well it needs to be well-planned. There are many professionals involved and much to learn by both sides, but the Madagascans will head the project themselves through OMNIS (Office des Mines Nationales and Industries Strategique).

Oygard has already visited her new work place together with the OD project manager, Gunnar Soiland, and is particularly pleased to be involved so early in the process.

"The petroleum activities in Africa have often been mismanaged disastrously," said Oygard. "Getting involved in this process at such an early stage means we may be able to build a foundation for avoiding such conditions at Madagascar."

As a petroleum province the country is relatively unexplored, explained Oygard.

"There are petroleum deposits onshore, and production of heavy oil is commencing this autumn. In addition, a few licenses have been awarded offshore. An important part of the program will in fact be to map out what might actually be there," said Oygard, who believes this will be a special experience for the whole family.

"My children will have the unique experience of attending an American school, while discovering another country and the local culture," she said. "This is also a unique opportunity for me professionally, as I will be the only foreign national in an established organization."

Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean on the southeastern coast of Africa. It is probably most often mentioned in connection with missionary work. When asked whether she will be doing any evangelizing herself, Oygard replies in the affirmative: "Yes, I will be preaching the Gospel of Oil!"