Wild Geese: From Freshford, Kilkenny to a life in the oil business
Vincent Dunne has amassed a wealth of experience over his 40 years in Norway
Vincent Dunne: “Norway is a highly regulated country and demands that everyone is playing their part meaning that all contribute to the welfare of the country.”
“I was to finish in the technical college in Kilkenny but, due to an operation, I had to repeat an extra year. My brother was an engineer in London and I went over to him for a holiday and to recover from the operation. I got a taste for London in the early ’70s and never came back.”
Dunne’s first job was selling laboratory equipment for colleges and similar organisations. With Australia and Tasmania as his market, he earned £7 a week and paid £3.50 for digs (B&B). He stayed just a year.
“After the first year, I got a job working on the building sites and working in the headings (tunnels for the water system in London).”
Dunne met his Norwegian wife in 1973. She wasn’t impressed by his career path so, in 1975, they packed up their 3 LPs and started a new life in Norway.
Initially Dunne worked as an industrial painter on the shipyards, mostly on the west coast.
But this was the 1970s and the oil business was coming to Norway as the North Sea opened up. At the same time, the shipping business went rock bottom.
Dunne was appointed project manager for surface protection and fireproofing for the Gullfaks A platform, the first Statoil platform with concrete legs supporting, generally known as GBS (gravity based structure). Dunne bought into the company in 1986 after it had financial difficulties.
“I became CEO and, together with some very loyal and clever people around me, we built one of the leading companies in the corrosion business in Norway. In 1993, we sold the company to build it up to cope with the ever demanding oil business.”
The oil business required a multidisciplinary approach to cut costs, with oil prices dropping to record lows. Norisol became the first multi-discipline company to be awarded a contract from Statoil on the Norwegian sector. The company grew and, with 600 qualified employees, was sold to a Danish holding company in 2007.
“I’ve been in the top management since 1984 and, after spending 42 years in the same company, my time for retirement has come with the Norisol Norge AS and will be on October 31st. My current position is director for oil and gas after retiring from the chief executive’s position in 2012.”
“Norway is a highly regulated country and demands that everyone is playing their part meaning that all contribute to the welfare of the country,” he says.
“It has a very transparent business culture and there is little corruption in the business. The oil business is very conservative.”
Compared to Dunne’s early experiences, this can make it challenging for outsiders to break into the market with no track record to prove themselves as a good alternative.
Dunne’s advice to anyone seeking to live or work in Norway is to be yourself and have an interest in the community around you.
“Try to get involved and learn the language. My key to success was speaking the language and being able to communicate on their terms. The Norwegian people have excellent English, both speaking and writing, but English is not their native tongue.”
He says Irish people and Norwegians share similarities in their cultures, both in music and literature.
Dunne has never regarded himself as an expat as he moved to Norway to live, whereas the expats keep together in their own community.
“I would strongly advise people to mingle with the natives and not just with expats and becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves,” he says.
Dunne’s future now is finding how he can retire and keep himself active whether in business or just privately.
“I hope to carry on in the background of the business, advising and sharing my experience. Experience collected over the past 40 years can be of use for the newcomers of tomorrow`s generation of oil people.
“I will use time advising the youth that oil and gas will play an important part in society for many generations to come.”
The oil and gas business has been on the receiving end of criticism for a long time due to environmental issues but Dunne believes there is a place for both renewables and oil and gas, if managed correctly.
Renewable energy requires major investments and it is oil and gas funds that are backing these at present, he says. He believes they must work together to find the solution not the problem.
Freshford still plays a role in Dunne’s family’s life. His wife, three daughters and grandchild are very attached to Ireland, visiting once a year since the Seventies.