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Visiting Norway's fields of black gold

By Natasha Maguder, CNN
  • CNN traveled to Norway to report on the oil industry
  • Visited oil rigs and refineries to find out how "green" each barrel of oil could be
  • For each barrel of oil produced, 8kg of carbon dioxide is emitted; 60 percent less than the global average.

(CNN) -- If I had to sum up our week in Norway with one thought, it would be "boiler suit". We were there to film our segment for Earth's Frontiers on oil and we quickly realized that there's not much to see in the oil and gas industry that doesn't require some hard-core protective clothing.

We went offshore to an oil rig in the North Sea to see how in Norway they manage to produce the greenest barrel of oil in the world. For every barrel of oil produced, 8kg of carbon dioxide is emitted.

That's sixty percent less than the global average. When you visit an oil rig you see that it is an entire world in itself. At Statoil's Oseberg A platform, 90 miles west of Bergen, they have three course meals, a cinema, and even a weekly body pump aerobics class.

It's definitely a perk of the job when you find yourself transported to another world, learning about things you left behind at school. I remember studying the oil cycle in chemistry, and learning about it from my father, who used to work in the industry.

But back to the boiler suits... there's one suit to travel to the platform, there's another layer of safety gear to add when you take the smaller helicopter, and there's an entirely different outfit to walk around the platform in general. Accessories come in a range of fluorescent pinks, oranges and yellows. (Think headphones, ear plugs, walkie-talkies, belts, glasses, rubber hoods, shoes).

Radiant in bright orange, the CNN crew flew around the rig to get some aerial shots of the platform. If you've never been in a helicopter before, it's quite a peculiar feeling when you lift off the helipad vertically.

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Watch Earth's Frontiers on the next generation of oil, clean coal and nuclear power from April 1.

Andrew Waller, the cameraman, was actually harnessed to the roof of the helicopter because he was hanging out of the open door with a very heavy camera, trying to film the rig below for our opening sequence.

It was quite impressive. As far as the eye could see there were oil and gas platforms, stretching out across the horizon. Some were in Norwegian waters, some in British waters. It really gave me a sense of the size and power of the petroleum industry.

After we'd landed, the platform manager took a sample of the oil which was being processed at the rig and showed it to us. I realized it was the first time I'd ever seen oil in its true form.

So many things we are surrounded by each day are made from oil, but most of us never get close to the stuff. Oil is a commodity that really influences world markets and geopolitics. It was funny to see it in a little plastic container.

We get a third of the world's energy from oil, and even optimistic forecasts say it will play a significant part in meeting future energy demands. But the environmentalists we spoke to were all united in calling for an end to the world's, and Norway's, addiction to oil.

In Norway they have a great attitude towards the environment. There were little notes on our beds in fifth-floor hotel rooms with encouragements to use the stairs; the napkin dispensers in restaurants are emblazoned with "just take one"; and there were recycling bins on every street corner.

I was left wondering how this environmental awareness translates into the big business of oil and gas exports. And also whether I'd be able to sneak at least one of the boiler suits home as a colorful memento of our trip.

What part do you think oil has in our future energy mix? Will it be big business as usual or can the industry do more to clean itself up? Share your thoughts in the Sound off box below