For hundreds of years, sailors feared a stretch of the Norwegian coastline known as Hustadvika. Violent storms dragged many to watery graves upon treacherous reefs and rocks.

These days Hustadvika is interesting for very different reasons. In the early design phase of a major deep-water energy project, engineers were exploring ways to lay a pipeline connecting the Ormen Lange oil and gas field 120 kilometres (75 miles) offshore to a gas processing plant to be built on land at Nyhamna.

Marine archaeologists joined a team evaluating the project, using remotely-operated robots carrying sonar equipment to survey the seabed in preparation to lay the pipeline.

“Just a few hundred metres from the coastline, seabed surveillance revealed thousands of wine bottles,” says Marek E. Jasinski, Professor of Maritime Archaeology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The bottles came from the wreck of a centuries-old Norse longship in 170 metres of water – the first to be discovered in Norway by maritime archaeologists in waters this deep.

The archaeologists used robots borrowed from the oil and gas industry to excavate part of the wreck closest to the pipeline’s planned route. Around 500 artefacts were recovered and later studied.

The pipeline was laid close by. During its first decade of operation, annual surveys revealed more insights into the wreck while monitoring its condition.

“The origin and name of the ship remains a mystery,” says Marek.

Flora and fauna

The Nyhamna plant is located in a dip, only visible from close to the perimeter fence. Shell aims to operate the plant in a way that minimises its environmental impact. Like much of Norway, it runs almost entirely on hydropower.

To help preserve the area around the plant, Shell’s scientists employ external specialists to monitor conditions on land and at sea. Every summer the specialists study vegetation and analyse soil samples for changes in acidity. Twice a year they analyse groundwater samples taken near the plant. They also collect sediment samples from the seabed, measure water temperatures, and study marine species for any change.

Teams also monitor semi-aquatic mammals, including endangered otters living along the coast. This helps Shell understand how otters live and find ways to avoid disturbing them.

“Environmental monitoring before industrial developments and during plant operations provides vital information about the natural surroundings and any changes over time,” says Sigbjørn Stokke, a scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). “Carrying out these studies allows us to better understand any impact on the natural environment.”

More in about us

Ormen Lange overview

Read key facts about the Ormen Lange project and find out about its history, the technology used, and Shell’s environmental approach.