Building a city in the sea

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Helicopter Bell 47J

Developing Ekofisk into a production site proved a new technological challenge.

It essentially involved building a new city in the middle of the North Sea and providing a new infrastructure to get people, materials, and of course oil, to and from it. Oil production began in the summer of 1971 using a floating rig and oil tankers to land the oil.

Regular helicopter service was started to get people out to the site. At the same time, a more permanent structure resting on the sea floor was developed that involved three fixed platforms and a massive storage tank.

The depths, combined with the more extreme waves and weather in the North Sea, led to a number of challenges and delays, and a series of minor accidents also occurred.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, 'Building a city in the sea', Inventing Europe,


  1. Kvendseth, Stig S. Giant Discovery: A History of Ekofisk Through the First 20 Years. Phillips Petroleum Company Norway, 1988.

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High-risk ventures: Ekofisk and the dawn of North Sea oil

Developing the North Sea as a source of oil and gas was a complicated process. Multi-national petroleum firms negotiated with national governments to divide up the ocean floor and develop the necessary technologies. The Ekofisk field, which belonged to Norway, became the first field to be exploited. It soon became clear that while drilling rights could be divided, exploiting North Sea oil was a risk shared by all parties.

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