The Goliat oil platform in the Barents Sea. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Oil-hungry Norway expands Arctic exploration

Another 53 Barents Sea blocks are proposed as new drilling acreage. Environmentalists cry halt
December 13, 2016

Just few days after the country’s ruling government coalition balanced on the verge of collapse following disagreement over climate obligations, oil minister Told Lien announces a significant expansion of exploration area in Arctic waters.

Lien proposes to make a total of 53 blocks available for drilling in the Barents Sea and another 24 in the Norwegian Sea, the Ministry informs. The announcement is part of the APA 2017, the annual licensing round in the best known exploration areas on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

«With this expansion [of blocks], we facilitate a unified development of the Barents Sea as petroleum province, it is important for business development, growth and jobs, especially in Northern Norway», Told Lien says in a press release.

«The awarding of new prospective acreage is a cornerstone in the government’s petroleum policy and very important tool in resource management», he adds.

The Awards in Pre-defined Areas (APA) includes geologically mature and well-known parts of the Norwegian continental shelf located near existing infrastructure.

In the previous APA-2016, a total of 32 blocks in the Barents Sea and 24 in the Norwegian Sea were proposed by the ministry. Then, 33 companies applied for licenses and license stakes.

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The awards come in addition to the country’s license rounds. In the 23rd round announced in May this year, a total of 13 companies got stakes in ten new licenses, with a total of 40 blocks. Several of the blocks in the round are located further east and further north than ever before on the Norwegian shelf.

«The awards must be stopped and the whole APA arrangement abolished», says Silje Ask Lundberg from the Norwegian Friends of the Earth. She argues that new acreage by far exceeds what can be defined as mature areas.

«There is only one platform in the Barents Sea today, still [Minister] Tord Lien tries to define about half of the whole Barents Sea as a mature area», she says in a press release.

The Friends of the Earth argues that the system with Awards in Pre-defined Areas undermines Norway’s management system for marine environment, and that it prevents the introduction of necessary climate measures in the oil industry.

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