The Norwegian Oil Fund

The Norwegian Oil Fund is worth approximately 1,4 trillion dollars and is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. 

The discovery of oil created enormous wealth in a very short amount of time. In order to manage this wealth, the government established the Government Pension Fund Global (“the Oil Fund”) in 1990 to invest surplus from the petrol industry.

The Norwegian Oil fund

  • Owns 1,5 % of all public companies in the world, with over 9 000 stocks in 69 countries.
  • Is the largest owner of European stock.
  • Owns stocks in thousands of individual companies like Apple, Amazon, Unilever, Microsoft, and Visa.
  • Owns hundreds of properties and real estate in cities like London, New York, Berlin and Tokyo.
  • Aspires to invest ethically and responsibly. This means that they do not invest in companies like tobacco producers that cause harm to the environment.
  • Transfers at most 3% of its worth to the Norwegian budget each year. This money supports social services like healthcare, unemployment benefits, pensions, infrastructure projects and education.
  • The fund invests abroad to get a sustainable revenue source for future generations.
  • Norway is the 8th largest producer of oil and 3rd largest producer of natural gas in the world. The oil industry accounts for 40-70 % of all of Norways’ export.


After the Dutch discovered oil in the 1960s, Norway started exploring the natural resources beneath the sea. In 1969, American company Phillips discovered one of the largest offshore oil fields in the world. Production from this field, Ekofisk, began in 1971 and it is expected to be running until 2050.

When the government initially started receiving oil revenue, a philosopher was hired to survey the ethical questions the new riches raised. A long-term strategy combined with democratic governance and low corruption created good conditions for future revenue. There is strict control over the oil fund, and a high level of transparency. The state-owned oil company Equinor (previously Statoil) was established in 1972, with the principle that 50 % of each oil license should be state owned. The state currently owns 67 % of the company.

Recent public debates

Recent years has seen continuous public debates about what will and should happen regarding further extraction of oil. These debates have centred around both the ethical aspect of the industry, as well as the question of how Norway can remain wealthy after putting a stop to the oil and gas extraction.

These issues were especially relevant in the public debate in Norway and internationally around untouched oil resources in the Arctic in 2019, and the development of the Rosebank field in the North Sea.

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