The Optimist

Trude Sundset, Statoilhydro, Forus, Norway


A GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS, volatile oil prices and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for energy that spans the world are transforming the way companies worldwide look at sustainability. But energy firms in particular are in for some major shifts.

“Things are changing in many new dimensions right now, which means you need project management that's capable of driving change,” says Trude Sundset, vice president for environment and climate at StatoilHydro. “You have to be willing to try new things. It's not possible to develop new technologies if you're not willing to try them out in a real project. You have to take risks and be open-minded.”

A technologist by training, Ms. Sundset was the energy major's chief scientist when the innovative environmental technology carbon capture and storage went into operation in the North Sea in the 1990s. Since then, she has been at the forefront of projects that have reduced carbon emissions (per fuel equivalent) in the North Sea to about one-third of the levels found in other oil- and gas-producing regions.

“We expect that in most markets around the world—and it's already the case in some—emissions will eventually carry a price tag.”

StatoilHydro had little choice. And Ms. Sundset says all industries will eventually be forced to factor in the costs of emitting carbon dioxide when calculating the bottom line.

“We expect that in most markets around the world—and it's already the case in some—emissions will eventually carry a price tag,” she says. “The challenge will be to make the right predictions on how much carbon dioxide will cost in the long term. It's not much different than predicting the price of oil. It's just a new market mechanism and it's evolving quickly.”

Yet the search for new energy resources is not without risks—both to ecosystems and company reputations. The oil sands in Alberta, Canada are estimated to hold the world's largest oil reserves outside of Saudi Arabia, for example. But StatoilHydro's projects in the environmentally fragile area have proven controversial.

Still, Ms. Sundset remains confident the necessary balancing act between securing new energy and protecting the environment is possible with the right mix of technology and experience.

“There's a lot of opposition to drilling in oil sands and it is challenging. The world needs more energy but the energy sources you find are getting more and more difficult to exploit and bring to the market,” she says. “But if you really want to find solutions to improve the environmental impact then you can develop the right technology. I'm optimistic about the challenges we are facing.”—Tom Sullivan

Leadership 2009
Leadership 2009



Related Content

  • Project Management Journal

    Navigating Tensions to Create Value member content locked

    By Farid, Parinaz | Waldorff, Susanne Boche This article employs institutional logics to explore the change program–organizational context interface, and investigates how program management actors navigate the interface to create value.

  • Project Management Journal

    The Dark Side of Environmental Sustainability in Projects member content locked

    By He, Qinghua | Wang, Zilun | Wang, Ge | Xie, Jianxun | Chen, Zhen Using fraud triangle theory, this study investigated the effects of three types of factors that shape contractor greenwashing behaviors.

  • Project Management Journal

    Vanguard Projects as Intermediation Spaces in Sustainability Transitions member content locked

    By Gasparro, Kate | Zerjav, Vedran | Konstantinou, Efrosyni | Casady, Carter B. In response to climate change issues, increasing numbers of vanguard projects are being established to help governments achieve sustainability goals through rapid technology development.

  • Research Summaries

    Extending Project Practices for the Future of the Profession in the Face of Climate Change and Other Grand Challenges member content open

    This research had two main goals: 1) to deepen the understanding of P3M’s role and relevance in implementing the climate change goals agenda and 2) to explore, better understand, and prioritize the…

  • Project Management Journal

    How Power Influences Behavior in Projects member content locked

    By Wynn, Conor | Smith, Liam | Killen, Catherine Taking a case-study approach, we traced the thoughts of project managers subject to power, particularly those who resisted.