Statoil ASA may have resoundingly defeated a shareholder motion demanding the Norwegian energy firm leave Alberta’s oilsands, but the topic was a central theme at the company’s annual meeting yesterday.

“Statoil only has a minor, minor foot into the tar sands, but the issue totally dominated its annual general assembly,” said Truls Gulowsen with Greenpeace Nordic in an interview following the four-hour meeting in Stavanger, Norway.

About 98.62 per cent of Statoil shareholders rejected a motion put forward by Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund demanding the company stop developing the oilsands.

But the environmental groups still hailed the results as a success, saying they received 10 times as many votes as they did last year, won the support of a number of investment funds and made the issue the meeting’s focus.

Investors holding some 25 million shares abstained from the vote. The Norwegian government controls about two-thirds of Statoil shares.

“I think we’re seeing clear evidence that the more information was said about the consequences of the tar sands industry, the more the opposition grows,” said Gulowsen.

Statoil is constructing a demonstration project called Leismer in the Athabasca region. The 10,000-barrel-per-day first phase is set to start up late this year or early next year.